Andhra Pradesh-born Sirisha Bandla on Sunday became the third Indian-American woman to fly into space when she joined British billionaire Richard Branson and four others on board Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity.
Bandla joined Branson and four others to make a journey to the edge of space from New Mexico, US. The crew reached an altitude of about 88 kilometers over the New Mexico desert, experienced a few minutes of weightlessness before making a smooth descent back to Earth.
“I am kind of still up there but it’s so glad to be here. I was trying to think about a better word than incredible but that is the only word that can come to my mind … Seeing the view of Earth is so life-changing but also the boost the rocket motor kicking in. The whole trip to space and back is just amazing,” Bandla told NBC News.
Her grandfather told Reuters that “from the beginning, she was fascinated towards the sky, looking at the sky, space, how to enter space and what is there”.
Bandla was born in the Guntur district in Andhra Pradesh and brought up in Houston, Texas. She is the Virgin Galactic vice president for government relations and the third Indian-origin woman to fly into space after Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams. During the flight, Bandla was scheduled to conduct experiments designed by Nasa involving plants in microgravity.
Bandla grew up in Houston near Nasa’s Johnson Space Center and always wanted to become an astronaut. But due to her poor eyesight, she could not meet the requirements to become a pilot or astronaut for Nasa.
“… I took a very unconventional way to go to space and I do believe that a lot of people are going to be able to experience this. That is why we are here,” she said.
After the successful spaceflight, Branson carried the Indian-American on his shoulders while celebrating their flight to space at Spaceport America in New Mexico. “I have dreamt about this moment since I was a child but going to space was more magical than I ever imagined,” he said.
Richard Branson started Virgin Galactic in 2004 with an aim to fly private citizens to the edge of space. The trips are designed to permit passengers to experience three to four minutes of weightlessness and observe the curvature of Earth.
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Thank you Honarable Vice President Venkaiah Naidu gaaru for your kind words! Immensely proud to carry a bit of India to space with me. Always grateful for the well wishes from the land of my childhood and family. https://t.co/O9ylt7V41l— Sirisha Bandla (@SirishaBandla) July 14, 2021