GUNTUR: For the first time in history, a Telugu-origin girl Bandla Sirisha set a record of going into space and this memorable moment was celebrated by her close relatives living in the Guntur district on Sunday. In India, the Twitterati have already raised their glasses in a toast to "Mana-ammayi-Modati Telugu ammayi" (Our Girl-First Telugu girl) travelling into space.
Six people, including founder Richard Branson, and Tenali-born Bandla Sirisha were involved in the spaceflight undertaken by Virgin Galactic. The spacecraft, which is the first fully-crewed successful suborbital test flight, started from New Mexico at 8 pm on Sunday night and successfully returned after 90 minutes.
Sirisha Bandla who is an aeronautical engineer became the third Indian-American woman to fly into space after late Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams. Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma is the only Indian citizen to travel in space aboard the Soyuz T-11 on April 3, 1984, as part of the Soviet Interkosmos programme.
Her maternal grandparents Raparla Venkatanarasayua and grandmother Ramadevi live in an apartment on Bose Road here. They were joined by close relatives who watched the live telecast of the Virgin Galactic spaceflight with Ramakrishna Babu on Television. The gleaming white space plane was borne with a twin-fuselage carrier jet VMS Eve (named after Branson's mother). "She is my granddaughter! Sirisha was fearless since childhood and had a keen interest in space. I wish her all the best. She grew up with us in Tenali till she was five," Sirisha's paternal grandfather, Dr Bandla Ragaiah stated. Sirisha’s great grandfather Bandla Pullaiah's was the former Municipal Chairman of Tenali .
Venkatanarasayya and Ramadevi expressed happiness that their granddaughter Sirisha, went to space and fulfilled her childhood dream, and returned safely. Chandu Sambashiva Rao, a Telugu NRI from Tenali and a former astronomer felicitated Sirisha's grandparents offered sweets to celebrate the special moment.
File Pic of Bandla Sirisha with her parents Dr. Muralidhar Bandla, Anuradha, and sister
The Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Unity’s journey to the edge of space from New Mexico reached an altitude of about 88 kilometers over the New Mexico desert - enough to see the curvature of the Earth. The crew experienced a few minutes of weightlessness before making a gliding descent back to Earth. Branson, speaking into a camera in the plane's cabin during the glide, called it "an experience of a lifetime."
"I am so incredibly honoured to be a part of the amazing crew of #Unity22, and to be a part of a company whose mission is to make space available to all," 34-year-old Bandla tweeted days before the flight. "When I first heard that I was getting this opportunity, it was just... I was speechless. I think that that probably captured it very well. This is an incredible opportunity to get people from different backgrounds, different geographies, and different communities into space," she said in a video posted on the Twitter handle of Virgin Galactic on July 6.
Welcome Sirisha Bandla, Colin Bennett, and Beth Moses — our expert crew members joining @richardbranson on our #Unity22 test flight. Watch LIVE this Sunday at https://t.co/5UalYT7Hjb. @SirishaBandla @VGChiefTrainer pic.twitter.com/F4ZrGnH3vo— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) July 5, 2021
Sirisha Bandla, who was born in the Guntur district in Andhra Pradesh and brought up in Houston, was astronaut No 004 and her flight role was Researcher Experience. She tested the experience of performing experiments aboard Unity during different phases of the flight, including the weightless period. The other crew members were two pilots and three other crewmates, including billionaire Branson (71). The primary objective for Unity 22 was to serve as a test flight for future commercial passenger flights by Virgin Galactic.