Andhra Pradesh

Meet the ‘Rocket Women of India’ Who are Going to Steer Chandrayaan-2

Author : Odisha Today Bureau | Posted on: 2019-06-15

Chandrayaan 2 will lift off on July 15, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman K Sivan announced on Wednesday, as the space agency rounds up preparation to send its most complex mission to the moon.


Scheduled for launch at 2:51 AM from the spaceport at Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, India’s sophomore lunar exploration mission comprises a lander, rover, and satellite, built indigenously under ISRO’s supervision.


This particular mission is an advancement of Chandrayaan-1, which was launched a decade ago. Chandrayaan-2 will scale the lunar surface and gather intel on minerals, rock formations and water. It will also be the first interplanetary mission that has a woman Project Director and a woman Mission Director. In fact, thirty percent of the team in charge of the mission is composed of women.


With Chandrayaan 2, India will try to go where Israel couldn’t—executing a perfect touchdown. It will also attempt to enter uncharted territory by landing on the south pole of the moon—a feat never tried before.


Science and Tech in India has largely been dominated by the male domain in the past.  Five years ago, after the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) entered Mars' orbit, a picture went viral online which showed women in the ISRO control room rejoicing and celebrating the success of the mission.


The picture sparked debates online about the female scientists at ISRO and how they are usually missing from the spotlight despite having an integral role to play.


K Sivan, ISRO Chairman was quoted while addressing a media where he said that Chandrayaan-2 will mark a historic achievement as it is the first time for a planetary mission where women scientists are in charge. ISRO has previously had women project directors for the launch of communication and other satellites. According to K Radhakrishnan, former ISRO chairman, a project director is responsible for the project from the very beginning, which involves getting the entire system configured, reviewed, assembled and implemented, and also to become a single-point authority for the overall project.


In fact, women comprise 30 per cent of the team in charge of the Rs 1,000-crore mission, which will be launched on July 15.


The two women are:


M VANITHA: First woman to hold the position of project director, M Vanitha is a design engineer by training.


• She was the winner of the best woman scientist award of the Astronautical Society of India in the year 2006, and has been the deputy project director for data systems for the remote sensing satellites Cartosat-1, Oceansat-2 and Megha-Tropiques.


• She also headed the telemetry as well as the telecommand divisions at the digital systems group at the satellite centre, which is now the UR Rao Space Centre.


• She was a key scientist involved in ensuring that the Mangalyaan satellite which was launched on November 5, 2013



RITU KARIDHAL: Referred as the 'Rocket Woman of India', Ritu Karidhal became famous with the launch of the Mars Orbiter Mission where she was the deputy operations director.


An aerospace engineer, Ritu Karidhal graduated from the University of Lucknow after which she joined ISRO. Ritu also received the prestigious ISRO Young Scientist Award in 2007 from APJ Abdul Kalam in 2007.


• A simple girl from the city of Lucknow, she got a chance to be associated with the Mars Mission with her never ending inquisitive spirit to know more about outer space.


• For the Mars Mission, she was one of the persons who was identified to carry out the operations of the satellite. The automation on board was done for the first time in the Mars mission and Karidhal assisted in all of these operations. This is regarded as the turning point of her scientific career.


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