Sirisha Bandla, vice president of government affairs and research operations for Virgin Galactic, journeyed to space on July 11, Sunday, just ahead of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
Sirisha, who hails from Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, is the second Indian-born woman to go into space after Kalpana Chawla. Chawla had tragically lost her life in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. Besides being the second Indian woman to journey to space, she is also the fourth Indian to achieve the feat- preceded by Rakesh Sharma, Kalpana Chawla and Indian American astronaut Sunita-Williams.
Read More: Sirisha Bandla To Be The Second India-Born Woman To Fly To Space
Sirisha and crew, who reached an altitude of about 88 kilometres over the New Mexico desert, were able to see the curvature of the 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,” Sirisha told NBC News in an interview, adding, “I have been dreaming of going to space since I was young, and literally it is a dream come true.”
“I have wanted to be an astronaut but I wasn’t able to go in the traditional National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) role and 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 and that’s why we are here,” she said.
In 2015, Sirisha joined Virgin Galactic as government affairs manager, and there has been no looking back for her since then. A graduate of Purdue University, she has a Master of Business Administration from Georgetown University.
Sirisha has been closely associated with the oldest and biggest Indo-American organization in North America — the Telugu Association of North America (TANA) — while staying in the US.
The Virgin Galactic carrier can launch up to eight people on the Unity 22 flight, but there were only six occupants (two pilots and four passengers) on July 11.