Indian-American astronaut Sirisha Bandla had a life-changing experience on her journey to space on Virgin Galactic’s first fully crewed suborbital test flight. Sirisha Bandla, a 34-years-old aeronautical engineer, joined British billionaire Richard Branson and four others on the Virgin Galactics spaceship Two Unity for a journey to space from the US state of New Mexico. They reached an altitude of 88 kilometers from above the New Mexico desert, seeing the earth’s curvature. On their return, the crew felt a bit of weightlessness for few minutes.
“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”, Bandla told during the interview. To her, “I have been dreaming of going to space since I was young and literally it is a dream come true,” she said.
“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 added.
Her dream was to become an astronaut, but due to her poor eyesight, it could not meet NASA’S requirement, and instead, she became an aeronautical engineer. Questioning her experience and whether this to be a rich affair, Badla replied, ” As Virgin Galactic builds up…this is VSS Unity’s ride to space today but we have got two more spaceships in the manufacture and we hope the cost would come down.”
Bandla was born in the Guntur District of Andra Pradesh and brought up in Houston, becoming the third Indian woman to go into space after Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams.
Bandla was four years old when she moved to the US. She graduated Bachelor of Science degree from the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Purdue University, in 2011, and did a Master of Business Administration degree from George Washington University in 2015.
Virgin Galactic, started by Richard Branson in 2014, aims to fly private citizens to space, feel the weightlessness for 3-4 mins and see the curvature of the earth. It can carry eight passengers with two pilots and six passengers on Unity 22 flight, but the test ride included six people, two pilots, and four passengers.
The trip was evaluated by four mission specialists and promised their customers a lifetime of experience to travel to space. Many have already booked seats, with the company charging USD 250,000 per seat.