Indian American all set to fly to space with Virgin Galactica


An Indian American woman will be one of the six space travelers aboard VSS Unity of Virgin Galactic’s founder Richard Branson, when it is scheduled to blast off on July 11 from New Mexico.

As astronaut No 4, Sirisha Bandla’s role will be that of a researcher experience. Bandla and Beth Moses will be the two women crew members on the trip.

The 34-year-old aeronautical engineer, who graduated from Purdue University, will be the second Indian-born woman to go into space after Kalpana Chawla and the fourth Indian to fly into space.

Virgin Galactic is an American private space agency that will launch its spacecraft ‘Unity 22’ next weekend as part of the test flight. Four mission scientists, including the founder of Virgin Galactic Richard Branson, will evaluate the experience of the Virgin Galactic Astronaut. Branson will be accompanied by Sirisha, Beth Moses, and Colin Bennett.

Sirisha, who is the Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations at Virgin Galactic, will be evaluating the human-tended research experience, using an experiment from the University of Florida that requires several handheld fixation tubes that will be activated at various points in the flight profile, the company said.

According to news reports, Sirisha was born in Tenali when her US-resident parents Dr Murali, an agricultural scientist, and Anuradha were in India on a visit about 25 years ago. “It is really a thrilling moment for the entire family,” Dr Kanneganti Rama Rao, uncle of Sirisha, was quoted as saying by The Times of India.

She is a graduate in aeronautical engineering from Purdue University and also holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Georgetown University. Prior to working at Virgin Galactic, she worked as an aerospace engineer in Texas, following which she had a job in space policy at the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF).

“Of course, the coolest thing is that she gets to hobnob with Richard Branson! We all are very proud of her and wishing her safe travels!’’ Sirisha’s relative Ramarao Kanneganti told India Today. During her stay in the US, Sirisha has also been closely associated with the Telugu Association of North America (TANA), which is the oldest and biggest Indo-American organization in North America.

Sharing the exciting news, Sirisha tweeted, “I am so incredibly honored to be a part of the amazing crew of #Unity22, and to be a part of a company whose mission is to make space available to all.”

Overwhelmed with joy, she further added, “I really didn’t need to tweet this since my friends flooded the feed yesterday with it. I was overwhelmed (in a good way!) by messages of love, unrecognizable capital text, and positivity yesterday. Slowly working my way through them…one platform at a time!”