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Indian grandfather of Virgin Galactic astronaut speaks about her fascination with space

As she prepares to become only the second Indian-born woman to visit space, the grandfather of Indian-American astronaut Sirisha Bandla said on Monday (July 5) she had a fascination with space “from the beginning”.

Bandla, 33, who was born in Guntur district of India’s southern Andhra Pradesh state, will be a part of billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic’s test flight on July 11 that will travel beyond the edge of the earth’s atmosphere.

A successful flight by Branson aboard Virgin’s VSS Unity spaceplane would mark a key milestone in a race to usher in a new era of private commercial space travel.

Bandla, who developed an early interest in space, completed her studies in the field before joining Virgin Galactic in 2015.

Her grandfather, Dr Ragaiah, a retired scientist who goes by one name, said she had always been fascinated by space.

Branson’s July 11 mission will be the twenty-second flight test for VSS Unity and the company’s fourth crewed spaceflight.

Bandla is the second Indian-born woman to go to space, after Kalpana Chawla, who died in the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster of 2003.

(Production: Marissa Davison)


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