Rocket Women Sirisha Bandla & Beth Moses will be flying to space alongside Virgin Galactic Founder Sir. Richard Branson on the first fully crewed Virgin Galactic flight as Astronaut 004 & Astronaut 002! Sirisha and Beth will be two of the five astronauts launching to space onboard Virgin Galactic’s ‘VSS Unity’ spacecraft on the Unity test flight, scheduled to launch from New Mexico (USA) on 11th July 2021!
Sirisha is the OG #RocketWoman & our first ‘Meet A Rocket Woman’ interviewee back in 2015! In her career, Sirisha rose from a Co-Op (Intern) to positions including Associate Director of Washington D.C. based Commercial Spaceflight Federation and her current role at Virgin Galactic as Vice President of Government Affairs and now Astronaut! With a background in Aerospace Engineering and an MBA from George Washington University, her passion for space and outreach is paramount. Hear Sirisha talk about how she was inspired to follow her dreams in space and her impressive career trajectory!
Born in Andhra Pradesh, India and having grown up in Houston, TX, Sirisha will also become the second Indian-born woman to fly to space, the first being the late NASA Astronaut Kalpana Chawla.
We’re excited for the young women around the world that will be inspired by Sirisha and Beth’s upcoming flight. It’s difficult for young women to imagine themselves in a particular role in the future when they don’t see someone like them doing that job today. By seeing someone that looks like you in a role, it affirms to you that it is achievable. Representation certainly matters and Sirisha’s flight will especially show young South Asian women everywhere that a successful role in the space industry is made for them and is possible.
Discussing the importance of role models in her interview with Rocket Women, Sirisha noted,
It’s very important. It’s very easy for someone to tell you and it’s important that message it heard. But it’s not as powerful as having someone there, having someone tangible to show you that that message it true. It’s the difference between hearing about it and actually seeing it, there’s something that I think we’re wired to see. Something physical resonates with the younger generation and myself, rather than just reading something on paper and hearing that you can do it.– Sirisha Bandla on the importance of role models in her 2015 interview with Rocket Women.
The Virgin Galactic Unity 22 mission will be the first to carry a full crew of two pilots and four mission specialists in the cabin, including Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic Founder, testing the astronaut experience. Beth Moses, the Chief Astronaut Instructor and Interiors Program Manager for Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo program, has previously flown to space with Virgin Galactic in 2019. A commercial astronaut, she impressively holds the title of the first woman to fly to space on a commercially launched vehicle and the first person on a suborbital mission known to have unstrapped and floated around the cabin. Beth’s role during the flight will be Spaceship Cabin Lead and Test Director; Sirisha will be testing the researcher experience during the upcoming mission.
Rocket Woman Wally Funk to Fly on Blue Origin’s First Human Mission
Virgin Galactic’s recent announcement came on the heels of Blue Origin’s announcement earlier the same day, stating that Rocket Woman Wally Funk would be launching to space with Blue Origin, on their first crewed flight alongside Founder Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark & another passenger. A story of determination, perseverance & self-belief. Wally, along with 12 other female pilots passed rigorous physical & mental tests in 1961 to become a member of the ‘Mercury 13’ – the group of American women who could have become NASA astronauts & travelled to space over twenty years before the first American woman, Sally Ride, eventually did. Their program was unfortunately cancelled & none of the 13 women flew to space, until now!
At 82-years-old, Wally Funk has dedicated her life to aviation & the ultimate goal of flying to space! A female aviation pioneer in her own right, Wally has taught 3000 people to fly & logged over 19,600 flying hours in her career! Hear the story of the Mercury13 through to women in space today in the brilliant BBC documentary ‘Women With The Right Stuff’, led by Wally Funk & featuring insights from NASA Astronaut Jessica Meir, European Space Agency (ESA) Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, British astronaut Helen Sharman & Rocket Women Founder Vinita Marwaha Madill!
We’re thrilled for Wally, Beth and Sirisha, along with the amazing Rocket Women including Kellie Gerardi, Hayley Arceneaux & Rocket Women interviewee Dr. Sian Proctor that are due to fly with commercial spaceflight this year! To date, only 12% of people that have travelled to space have been women, just under 70 out of 570 people from 41 countries. With commercial spaceflight this is finally changing! #BeTheChange