Among the key highlights of Chandrayaan-2 was that the mission was spearheaded by several women — project director Muthayya Vanitha and mission director Ritu Karidhal, to name a few.
Now, as we speak, India is seeing through the grand follow-up that is Chandrayaan-3. And Dr Karidhal has once again taken the wheel to lead this remarkable mission as one of the key scientists at ISRO.
Known as India’s ‘rocket woman’, Dr Karidhal is serving as Chandrayaan’s mission director.
Born and brought up in Lucknow, she is an IISc graduate with a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering, as well as a BSc and MSc in Physics from the University of Lucknow.
She began working in ISRO in 1997 and once recalled that working in space sciences had always been her dream.
“I have always had a fascination for mysteries of outer space and knew that’s what I wanted to get into,” she once told iDiva.com.
“[I] used to wonder about the size of the moon, why it increases and decreases. I wanted to know what lay behind the dark spaces.”
Getting into ISRO, she recalled, was her life’s best moment. “It was like everything I had before was all for that one moment.”
Dr Karidhal’s entry in the arena came at a significant time when the representation of women in her field was little. Regardless, that the field of science was then a male bastion was no roadblock.
“I was never treated differently because of my gender. Within the scientists’ community here, the only thing that matters is how much work you put in and what is the quality of your work.”
Dr Karidhal also played a key role in India’s first interplanetary mission — Mangalyaan — as the deputy operations director of navigation. The legacy of the project remains notable even today: It made India the fourth country in the world to venture to Mars.
For her work, Dr Karidhal has received several accolades — for instance, the ISRO Young Scientist Award, the ASI Team Award, the Women Achievers in Aerospace, 2017, and more.