JNS: British billionaire and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson along with five colleagues, including Indian-origin aeronautical engineer Shirisha Bandla, returned safely on Earth from space on a Virgin Galactic VSS Unity rocket plane.
They took a glimpse of the Earth from 53.41 miles (around 88 kms) up and a few minutes of weightlessness before the spacecraft glided back to the Earth. According to Indian time, his plane returned to a launch center spaceport in New Mexico at around 9:12 pm on Sunday (11 July).
Branson (71) and five of his colleagues left on a historic flight to space at 8:10 pm Indian time. This flight was about an hour, but it is considered a milestone for space tourism.
During the flight, a crowd of more than 500 people saluted Brenson and his companions for a successful journey. Branson’s wife, children and grandchildren were also in this crowd.
The rocket plane was scheduled to take off at 6:30 pm, but it was extended (launch time) by one and a half hours due to bad weather. All members of Branson’s crew on this trip are company’s employees.
It was the fourth trip of SpaceShipTwo to the edge of space since 2018. Virgin Galactic, the company Branson founded in 2004, says it will soon start flying paying customers regularly on similar jaunts, opening a new era in human space exploration, reported Washington Post.
Onboard were pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, both of whom had flown to space on previous flights. Joining Branson in the crew compartment were Sirisha Bandla, Virgin Galactic’s vice president of government affairs, Colin Bennett, the company’s lead operations engineer, and Beth Moses, its chief astronaut instructor. Moses, who is married to Mike Moses, the company’s president, flew on Virgin Galactic’s second spaceflight mission in 2019, it reported.
Sirisha Bandla (34), an India-born woman, was brought up in Houston, Texas, to fly into space in the first fully crewed successful test flight of ‘Virgin Galactic’, said that seeing the Earth from above was a wonderful and life-changing experience.
Shirisha has become the second Indian woman after Kalpana Chawla and the fourth Indian-origin to fly into space after Rakesh Sharma, Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams.
She is an aeronautical engineer; she was born in Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur district and brought up in Houston, Texas. Sirisha graduated from Purdue University in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering and then obtained her MBA in 2015 from George Washington University.
Later after completing her studies, she joined Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, and presently she is the Vice President of Government Affairs at the British-American spaceflight company.