SheInspires: Meet the 8 Women Behind ISRO's Mars Mission
They are passionate. They are hardworking. They are strong. They are the women of science who took ‘the space’ by a storm.
Meet the 8 women who spearheaded the ISRO’s Mars Mission. Working behind the scene, away from the limelight, these brilliant and unassuming women have put their heart and soul into creating a space history for India, thereby making the nation proud.
Investing 18 hours a day, this systems engineer was working on India’s mission to Mars for two years. She was leading a team of 500 scientists and worked relentlessly, bidding goodbye to all the Sundays and even national holidays. Along with her team, she had built three instruments for the spacecraft that would carry out the main experiments. Working on the Mars project was a dream come true for her, as she says "I was in my last year at primary school, when I saw a live launch on TV. At that time it just struck me in my mind how good it would be to work there, and today I am here.” As a hard working woman she aims to become the first woman director to head a national space agency.
2. Kriti Faujdar
Kriti worked at the Master Controlling Facility and constantly monitored the satellites and the other mission. This computer scientist finds ISRO a very supportive workplace for women. “They try to give us equal opportunity. We work in night shifts, too – there’s nothing like women shouldn’t work at night. We never feel unsafe. Male colleagues are very supportive.” In spite of working in day and night shifts, she loves her job and wants to pursue MTech in future to be a better scientist at ISRO.
3. Ritu Karidhal
“I have always had a fascination for mysteries of outer space, and knew that's what I wanted to get into. " As a child, Ritu was intrigued to read about the moon and the stars. Her love for science made her study each and everything related to space mission. Years later, Ritu is the Deputy Operations Director of the Mars Orbiter Mission. The journey wasn't easy for this mother of two who feels she couldn't have achieved this work-life balance without the support of her family and husband. She adds: “Mars mission was an achievement, but we need to do a lot more. The country needs a lot more from us so that the benefit reaches the last man."
4. Moumita Dutta
Reading about India’s first lunar probe, Chandrayaan 1, Moumita, in her youth, often wondered, “How lucky those people are to have the opportunity to be part of this!” Now in 2015, this MTech in Applied Physics finds her wishes have come true being one of the top ISRO scientists. She is the project manager for payloads for the Mars Mission and also leads a team to make indigenous progress in optical sciences as a part of ‘Make in India’ initiative.
5. Nandini Harinath
Working at ISRO for 20 years, this Deputy Director feels proud to see the Mars Orbiter Mission on the new 2000 rupee note. Gaining inspiration to study science in her childhood by the revered Star Trek series, Nandini now feels, “If you’re doing mission operations you don’t need to watch a science-fiction movie, we see the excitement in our day-to-day lives.” Working extremely hard without going home for days, she recalls “We spent many sleepless nights. We encountered lots of problems as we progressed, in the design as well as in the mission. But it was coming up with quick solutions, innovation that was brought in that was key."
6. Anuradha TK
Known as a role model by other women at ISRO, Anuradha first thought about space when she was nine years old. Seeing Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, she was fascinated by this profession and wanted to become a space scientist. Living her dream job for past 34 years, she specializes in sending the communication satellites into space being the Geosat Programme Director at ISRO Satellite Centre. Her experience in the field makes her disagree with the perception that women and science don't gel well. She rather remarks that at ISRO, one is valued for one's knowledge, “You don't get any special treatment because you're a woman, you're also not discriminated against because you're a woman. You're treated as an equal here."
7. N Valarmathi
She is the project director of RISAT-1 who led the launch of India’s first indigenously developed radar imaging satellite. She joined ISRO back in 1984 and has been involved in many missions including Insat 2A, IRS IC, IRS ID, TES. Honoured by the Abdul Kalam Award at the age of 52, she is the second woman after T K Anuradha to head a prestigious GSAT-12 mission at ISRO. With her dedication and commitment, she has made her state of Tamil Nadu proud.
8. Tessy Thomas
Known as the ‘Missile Woman’ of India, Tessy is the Project Director for Agni-IV and Agni-V missiles in Defence Research and Development Organisation. She is the first woman engineer to head a missile project in India. In January 2012, the then Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh told the Indian Science Congress that Tessy is an example of a “woman making her mark in a traditionally male bastion and decisively breaking the glass ceiling.” Her hard work and assiduity led India close to become a member of the exclusive club of countries with ICBMs (Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles). Because of her achievements, she is fondly addressed as the ‘Agniputhri’ by the media.
Hats off to the dedication and hardwork of these talented women. Grounded on earth, even sky is not a limit for them. May their diligence and zeal inspire us all.
By - Charu Sareen
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