Sirisha Bandla, The Indian-American On Virgin Galactic’s Space Mission

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Sirisha Bandla, The Indian-American On Virgin Galactic's Space Mission

Sirisha Bandla (second from right) is the firm’s vice president, government affairs & research ops.

On July 11, when billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, along with a crew, travels to the edge of space on a Virgin Galactic test flight, astronaut Sirisha Bandla will be taking care of the researcher experience on the Unity22 mission. And while the flight marks a key milestone in the area of private commercial space travel, Indians have a separate reason to cheer.

Sirisha Bandla, astronaut number 4 on the crew, was born in Andhra Pradesh and grew up in Houston. She is also the Vice President, Government Affairs and Research Operations at Virgin Galactic.

“Indian-origin women continue to break the proverbial glass ceiling and prove their mettle,” tweeted former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister NN Chandrababu Naidu on Friday. “On July 11, Sirisha Bandla with Telugu roots is set to fly to space aboard VSS Unity with Richard Branson and the team marking the dawn of the new space age, making all Indians proud,” the post read.

Mr Naidu shared two pictures – one featuring all five members of the crew and a solo photo of Ms Bandla.

Soon after the Telugu Desam Party president’s tweet, people not just congratulated Ms Bandla on her achievement but also acknowledged that it would encourage many more women to join the field.

“Yes, sir. She is surely gonna make the land proud. More power to you Sirisha Bandla you will be an inspiration to many. Fly Colours,” a user wrote.

Another said, “Encourage, educate and empower.”

Here are some more reactions:

The same day, Ms Bandla, too, quote-tweeted a Virgin Galactic post carrying a video that featured all the crew members, including “astronaut number 1, Richard Branson.”

“I am so incredibly honoured 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,” she said.

In a subsequent tweet, the astronaut said that she was overwhelmed by messages of love.  “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,” she wrote.

In the introduction video shared by Virgin Galactic, Mr Branson said that he will be evaluating the customer spaceflight experience, adding that as the founder of the company, he was proud of the crew he has by his side as they fly to space. “This July our dream will become a reality and we are excited to share it with you all,” he said. Not just that, Mr Branson also left people guessing about what he is going to announce when he returns.

“When we return from space, I will announce something very exciting to give more people the chance to become an astronaut. Because space belongs to us all. So watch this space,” the billionaire said.

The July 11 mission will be the twenty-second flight test for VSS Unity and Virgin Galactic’s fourth crewed spaceflight, the company said on Friday.

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