Virgin Galactic’s Sirisha Bandla becomes 3rd Indian American woman to reach space

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.

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  • 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

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