Meet Sirisha Bandla, Indian-American flying to space with Virgin's Richard Branson – India Today

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As Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson announced his first trip to space just ahead of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, the billionaire will be accompanied by an Indian onboard. Sirisha Bandla, vice president of government affairs and research operations for the company, will be among the five passengers hopping on the trip with Branson.
Hailing from Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, Sirisha will be the second Indian-born woman to go into space after Kalpana Chawla, who died in the tragic Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
Sirisha joined Virgin Galactic in 2015 as government affairs manager and has since then risen through the ranks. She has also handling Washington operations for Virgin Orbit, which recently delivered a satellite in space using a 747 plane. A graduate of Purdue University, Sirisha has a Master of Business Administration from Georgetown University.
“Of course, the coolest thing is that she gets to hobnob with Richard Branson! We all are very proud of her and wishing her safe travels!’’ Sirisha’s relative Ramarao Kanneganti said. During her stay in the US, Sirisha has also been closely associated with the Telugu Association of North America (TANA), which is the oldest and biggest Indo-American organization in North America.

I am so incredibly honored 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.

While Sirisha will be the second Indian woman in Space, she will be the fourth Indian to achieve the feat. While Rakesh Sharma is the first Indian ever to go into space, Sirisha is preceded by Kalpana Chawla and Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams.
Branson’s company announced Thursday evening that its next test flight will be July 11 and that its founder will be among the six people on board. The winged rocket ship will soar from New Mexico — the first carrying a full crew of company employees. It will be only the fourth trip to space for Virgin Galactic.
The news came just hours after Bezos’ Blue Origin said Bezos would be accompanied into space on July 20 by a female aerospace pioneer who’s waited 60 years to rocket away.
Amazon’s founder will be on Blue Origin’s debut launch with people on board, accompanied by his brother, the winner of a $28 million charity auction and Wally Funk, one of the last surviving members of the Mercury 13 who was chosen as his “honoured guest.”
Amazon, Virgin and SpaceX are now in a tight race to outcompete each other when it comes to commercial space operations. While Bezos and Branson head out, Elon Musk has been working on plans to send people to Mars with his Starship project.
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