Over the weekend, English business magnate Richard Branson became the first person to launch into space aboard a rocket he funded.
With him on board was the third Indian-origin woman to fly into space — Sirisha Bandla, the vice president of government affairs and research operations at Virgin Galactic, a spaceflight company founded by Richard Branson and his Virgin Group in 2004.
Prominent leaders and business executives from India have been celebrating since the weekend, when Bandla, Branson, and two other employees, Beth Moses and Colin Bennett, exploded towards the sky over New Mexico early Sunday morning.
Anand Mahindra, billionaire and chairman of Mahindra Group, took to Twitter to congratulate Bandla, saying Bandla’s flight is a sign that India’s women are “breaking glass ceilings” everywhere.
“Indian women are not just breaking glass ceilings—they’re literally dismantling ALL ceilings on this planet and rocketing into space,” he wrote.
India’s Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, also took to Twitter, saying Bandla will be a role model for girls around the world.
Bandla was born in the southern Andhra Pradesh state in India and started her employment at Virgin Galactic six years ago, after working as a mechanical engineer after graduating from Purdue University, Indiana.
Before the launch on Sunday morning, the four crew members boarded a winged plane with a single rocket motor, called SpaceShipTwo, which Branson’s company, Virgin Galactic, spent almost twenty years engineering.
In just over a week’s time, on July 20, Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos is set to launch into suborbital space aboard his own company’s spacecraft, New Shepard.
Bandla’s trip comes after two previous Indian-Americans, Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams, went into space.
Kalpana Chawla was the first India-born woman to travel into space aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 2003, which exploded upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, tragically killing all members onboard.
Virgin Galactic will conduct another test flight before it begins taking paying civilian customers into space.
Currently, more than 600 people have reserved tickets priced at $200,000 to $250,000, and the company is hoping to reopen ticket sales soon at a higher price point.
Photo Image: CNN