Meet Astronaut 004 Sirisha Bandla, the India-born woman who is going to space
The 34-year-old aeronautical engineer, who was born in Andhra Pradesh's Guntur and grew up in Houston, Texas, will be the second Indian-born woman to go into space after Kalpana Chawla and the fourth Indian to fly into space.
On July 11, when Virgin Galactic founder and billionaire Richard Branson reaches for the stars on board Unity 22, he will be accompanied by five more astronauts. But it is astronaut 004 who has got the social media abuzz.
Astronaut 004 is Indian American Sirisha Bandla. The 34-year-old aeronautical engineer, who was born in Andhra Pradesh's Guntur and grew up in Houston, Texas, will be the second Indian-born woman to go into space after Kalpana Chawla and the fourth Indian to fly into space.
During the spaceflight, Sirisha Bandla, who is vice president of government affairs and research operations at Virgin Galactic, will be evaluating the human-tended research experience.
She will be using an experiment from the University of Florida that requires several handheld fixation tubes, which will be activated at various points in the flight profile.
On July 2, after Branson announced the crew of Virgin Galactic's first fully crewed rocket-powered test flight, Sirisha Bandla took to Twitter to say how "incredibly honoured" she was to be a part of the crew and be a part of a company whose mission is to make space available to all.
Sirisha Bandla announcement sparked a frenzy in India. From actors to politicians to government representatives, the 34-year-old Indian American had become an icon and an inspiration for many.
Sirisha Bandla has earlier worked for a space policy job at the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and L-3 Communications in Greenville, Texas, as an aerospace engineer.
Besides being a part of Virgin Galactic, Sirisha Bandla is also on the board of directors of the Future Space Leaders Foundation and the American Astronautical Society.