Sirisha Bandla is an American aeronautical engineer and astronaut of Indian origin. She is the third Indian-origin woman to fly into space after Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams. She became one of the space travelers when VSS Unity of Virgin Galactic took off to space on July 11, 2021, from New Mexico.
Sirisha Bandla was born in 1987 (age 34 years; as of 2021) in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, India. She grew up in Houston, Texas.
She pursued a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Aerospace, Aeronautical, and Astronautical Engineering from Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, US (2006-2011). Thereafter, she pursued an MBA from The George Washington University, Washington, D.C., US (2012-2015). Sirisha was decisive in her thoughts since childhood and always determined to achieve them. Bandla was curious about flying from a very young age and took her first flying adventure alone when she was four years old. Talking about it in an interview, her grandfather said,
At the age of four, she travelled alone to the US where her parents and older sister lived. Though the person who accompanied her was known to us, he was a stranger to her. She was not scared to fly alone. She was excited.”
He further said,
We don’t know how she got interested in aircraft, stars, and skies. It has been in her since childhood. Whatever she has achieved today is on her own accord and her parents gave her full freedom to pursue her dream. She has proved her excellence and rose to the occasion.”
Height (approx.): 5′ 7″
Weight (approx.): 50 Kg
Hair Color: Black
Eye Color: Black
Parents & Siblings
Sirisha Bandla is the daughter of B Muralidhar and Anuradha. Both her parents work for the US government. Her elder sister, Pratyusha Bandla, is a biological science technician in the US.
Sirisha’s paternal grandfather, Bandla Ragaiah, is a former principal scientist and professor at Acharya NG Ranga Agriculture University, Hyderabad.
Her maternal grandfather, Venkat Narasiah, is a retired Chemistry professor, who lives in Tenali in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh.
Sirisha is in a relationship with a man named Sean Hu.
Sean proposed Sirisha in May 2019, and Bandla happily accepted the proposal.
Sirisha started her career as a Design, Test, and Analysis Co-operator at ATA Engineering. She worked there for around three years and then joined L-3 Communications Integrated Systems as a Mechanical Engineer. In 2012, she became the Associate Director in the space policy department of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF), an industrial association of spaceflight companies.
Sirisha joined Virgin Galatic (British-American spaceflight company) as a Government Affairs officer in July 2015.
She was promoted to Business Development and Government Affairs Manager in 2017 in the organization. Thereafter, she worked as a Business Development & Government Affairs Manager and Director of Washington Operations at Virgin Orbit. In 2021, she became the Vice President of Government Affairs o the Virgin Group.
As of 2021, Sirisha also serves as a member of the board of directors of the American Astronautical Society and Future Space Leaders Foundation.
Third Indian-Origin Woman to Fly into Space
On July 11, 2021, the Indian-origin aeronautical engineer Sirisha Bandla flew into space when she joined British billionaire Richard Branson on Virgin Galactic’s first fully crewed suborbital test flight from New Mexico, making her the third Indian-origin woman to fly into space. After a 90-minute delay due to bad weather, the space plane took off for the 1.5-hour mission above New Mexico. A few days before the flight, Bandla shared her excitement to fly into space. She said,
I am so incredibly honoured 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.”
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. https://t.co/sPrYy1styc
— Sirisha Bandla (@SirishaBandla) July 2, 2021
After completing the trip, Ms. Bandla said,
I am kind of still up there but (I’m) so glad to be here. I was trying to think of a better word than incredible but that is the only word that comes to my mind…Seeing the view of Earth is so life-changing…The whole trip to space and back is just amazing.”
- Dessert(s): Vanilla Ice-cream, Homemade Candy
- Astronaut: Neil Armstrong
- Sirisha is often spotted drinking alcohol on various occasions.
- She loves traveling and doing adventure sports in her leisure time.
- Bandla follows a non-vegetarian diet.
- She is fluent in two languages- English and Telugu.
- As of 2021, Bandla resides in Washington D.C.
- Sirisha is an avid animal lover and has a pet cat.
- During an interview, her grandfather revealed that Sirisha often visited NASA during her family’s stay in Houston. He said,
She was so interested in flying an aircraft that even after she could not make it to NASA due to a condition in her eyesight, she pursued higher education in the same field. For those like her, she has done videos on YouTube — ‘lessons from Bandla Sirisha’ on how to get into the Space industry.”
- Sirisha was an active and fearless child. Talking about Sirisha in an interview, her paternal grandfather said,
When I used to come home late at night, I used to discourage her from stepping out. But she would always tell me not to worry and that she could take care of herself.”
- In an interview, sharing the details about her childhood, her maternal grandfather said,
Even during a power cut when other children of her age would be scared of the pitch darkness around, she was not one of them.”
- Former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu congratulated Sirisha on her achievement through his Twitter handle. He also shared two pictures- a solo picture of Sirisha and one featuring all six members of the crew on his Twitter handle. He tweeted,
Indian-origin women continue to break the proverbial glass ceiling and prove their mettle. On July 11th, Sirisha Bandla with Telugu roots is set to fly to space aboard VSS Unity with Richard Branson and the team marking the dawn of the new space age, making all Indians proud!”
- Bandla is closely associated with the Telugu Association of North America (TANA), one of the oldest and biggest Indo-American organizations in North America.