Aeronautical engineer Sirisha Bandla became the third Indian American woman to go to space after being part of the Virgin Galactic’s first fully-crewed flight test on Sunday.
Successful mission: Bandla, 34, joined British billionaire Richard Branson and four others aboard the SpaceShipTwo Unity 22. It lifted off from the Spaceport America launch facility in New Mexico at 10:40 a.m. ET, reported Times of India.
- The 90-minute suborbital test flight of VSS Unity 22 involved flying at an altitude of about 53 miles over the New Mexico desert, reaching just above the boundary of space.
- Rounding Unity22’s crew are members Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic’s chief astronaut instructor; Colin Bennet, the lead operations engineer; and pilots Dave Mackay and Mike Masucci.
- The passengers aboard reportedly experienced around four minutes of weightlessness before the plane descended back to Earth.
- Virgin Galactic conducted the suborbital flight as a test for future commercial passenger flights.
Astronaut 004: Bandla, Virgin Galactic’s vice president of government affairs and research operations, joined Unity 22’s crew as astronaut 004, taking on the “Researcher Experience” role for the flight.
- Born in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh and raised in Houston, Bandla became the third Indian-origin woman in space, following Kalpana Chawla in 1997 and Sunita Williams in 2006-2007.
- Earlier this month, Bandla tweeted how honored she was to be a part of the Unity 22 crew and Virgin Galactic, whose “mission is to make space available to all.”
- “This is an incredible opportunity to get people from different backgrounds, different geographies, and different communities into space,” Bandla said in a video posted on July 5.
Featured Image via Virgin Galactic