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Exclusive: Sirisha Bandla’s Proud Grandfather on Second India-Born Woman in Space

Sirisha Bandla is the second Indian-origin woman to head to space as part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Glactic crew on VSS Unity. Her paternal grandfather, Ragaiah Bandla (85), tells us about Sirisha’s childhood and visits to India.

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Sirisha Bandla (34) will become the second Indian-born woman after Kalpana Chawla to fly into space on 11 July 2021. Prior to them, Rakesh Sharma and Sunita Wiliam were other Indians who went into space.

The mission conducted by Virgin Galactic, Washington DC, is named Unity22 and will have a crew of six members. This is VSS unity spaceship’s 22nd flight test, and the company’s fourth crewed spaceflight. Sirisha, who holds the post of Vice President of Government Affairs at the firm, will be heading to outer space to evaluate the human-tended experience.

On the day the news about Sirisha’s mission broke, she tweeted that she is incredibly honoured to be a part of the amazing crew and to be a part of a company whose mission is to make space available to all.

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This is a proud moment not only for her family but also for the country. Her uncle, Ramarao Kannegati, took to Facebook to congratulate her and so did a few of her other family members.

Sirisha Bandla
Ragaiah Bandla, Sirisha’s grandfather.

In an exclusive interview with The Better India, her grandfather, Ragaiah Bandla (85), a retired scientist in Andhra Pradesh, shares details about Sirisha’s childhood.

‘Always Fascinated by Space’

Born in Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur district, Sirisha was raised in Houston, Texas. She completed her Bachelor’s in Aerospace Aeronautical Engineering in 2011 from Purdue University, and in 2015, she completed Masters in Business Administration from George Washington University.

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Sirisha Bandla
Sirisha during one of her visit’s to India.

After this, she landed a job in Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic in Washington DC.

Though Sirisha has spent most of her time in the USA, her paternal grandfather, Ragaiah, shares that she has visited India a few times in her childhood.

He says that she would visit India during the holidays or for any family ceremony. It was during these visits that he realised that Sirisha was a strong decision-maker and had a fascination for the sky or anything that happened up there.

Sirisha Bandla
Sirisha and her sister.

“As a child, Sirisha was always fascinated by the sky, and at night, she enjoyed stargazing. She would ask several questions about how aeroplanes are flying, how stars are formed, why they are up there and more. I believe it was her inquisitive nature that led her to study aerospace engineering and allowed her to travel to outer space,” says Ragaiah.

When Sirisha informed him of the news, he was overwhelmed with joy that his granddaughter would be travelling to outer space.

“I am very proud of her achievements and determination. Now, I am looking forward to watching her launch online. Once she is back, I hope to meet her and listen to all her stories about her space journey,” says Ragaiah.

Edited by Yoshita Rao

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