This International Women’s Day, Astronaut Today features leading women in space science who have made pioneering contribution to India’s space and exploration community and are leading the charge at ISRO. The top women in space science are from ISRO and participated in the historic Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) also known as Mangalyaan, India’s first interplanetary venture, conducted on a shoestring budget.
Anuradha TK, Geosat Program Director, ISRO Satellite Centre
Anuradha TK has had a long career in space, a remarkable 34 years. Her core area of expertise is sending satellites into space that sit 36,000 kms from the centre of the earth. In her last interview, the leading lady divulged she first thought about a space career at the age of nine. She joined ISRO in 1982 and since then has seen the successful launch of many space programs.
Nandini Harinath, Deputy Operations Director, MOM
Her exposure to space science goes back to childhood. Harinath has been with ISRO for the last 20 years and Mars mission was the most eventful one wherein she partook in jettisoning India into the elite space club. Her core area of responsibility was conceptualizing the execution of the craft’s autonomous brain so that it could function on its own and override malfunctions. The space scientist is all geared up for other cosmic projects, waiting to explore the cosmic neighbourhood.
Ritu Karidhal, Deputy Operations Director of Mars Orbiter Mission
Lucknow-born Ritu Karidhal always had a deep interest in space science, going back to her childhood days when she mused over the size of the moon and why it waned. So deep was her interest that culled newspaper clippings of ISRO and NASA during her childhood. After completing her post-graduation, she applied in ISRO, nailed the job and eventually became a space scientist, and participated in the ground-breaking Mars mission that pushed her into the spotlight.
In a league of her own is Dr Shawna Pandya — the latest entrant in space scientist arena. She has earlier interned at Johnson Space Centre in NASA. Fluent in French, Spanish, and Russian, the 30-plus newly minted citizen scientist astronaut candidate, who also doubles up as a speaker is a general physician by training. She is also a Prime crew member of SeaSpace Exploration & Research Society, wherein the team will execute a 100-day mission to further ocean exploration in 2018.