The Path-Breaking Achievement Of The Women Behind Chandrayaan 3 Success Makes A Case For More Women In STEM


At about 5:56pm on August 23, a hush fell over the crowds gathered across India. And then in approximately four minutes there were hoots, rapturous applause and cheer and history was made. A notification from my co-worker announced Chandrayaan 3’s successful moon landing, and it was then that I knew the cause of every person’s blinding allegiance to their respective phones for the past few minutes.

The Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-3 successfully landed on the moon’s south pole, making us the first country to land on this side. India became the fourth country after the United States, China, and Russia to softly land on the moon. On July 14, the Chandrayaan-3 mission lifted off from Sriharikota. While we celebrate ISRO’s success, it’s a great opportunity to acknowledge this special group of female scientists  who made this historic achievement possible ushering scientific brilliance and the cultural diversity of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) into a whole new sphere.

Indian Women Making A Mark In Science

Over the past few decades, the role of women in numerous professions has gone up exponentially, there are more of us in the work force, though in tother sectors, namely business, education, and corporates. However, much like in other parts of the world, the number of women in STEM continues to be lower and they are often the unsung heroes of significant scientific achievements. But when you’re literally breached a hitherto unknown territory, you’ve to give credit where it’s due. And it’s time for these women at ISRO to shine.

Through its Chandrayaan-1 and 3 now, Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM, 2013) or ASTROSAT missions, India has created and launched several satellites into space, exploring the Moon, Mars, and the stars. ISRO has launched more than 104 satellites. These missions are supported by a strong team of scientists and engineers, including a team of trailblazing women. Women’s contributions to ISRO’s victory are becoming increasingly important.

Today we look at women who work at several ISRO centres as scientists, engineers, directors, deputy directors, operators, technical staff, and administrative staff, among others. ISRO employs both physically challenged and visually impaired men and women.

The Chandrayaan 3’s project crew included roughly 500 people striving to make it a success, with a significant number of ladies being a significant driving factor behind the effort. Women held around 27% of the mission’s senior executive posts.

Meet the Rocket Women of ISRO:

Anuradha TK

One of India’s most honoured female space scientists, she was awarded the ‘Space Gold Medal’ by the Aeronautical Society of India in 2003 for her contribution to the space sciences. She is ISRO’s senior most female scientist, having joined the organisation in 1982, becoming the first woman to become an ISRO satellite Project Director. She has opened the door for the next generation of scientists to pursue a career in this field. She has devised a novel method of controlling geosynchronous satellites. Anuradha successfully manoeuvred GSAT-12 into its final orbit using complicated procedures carried out from the Hassan control site. Her innovation was important to the success of GSAT-12. Her work plays a huge part in ISRO’s research.

Ritu Karidhal

Ritu Karidhal, the mission director of Chandrayaan-2, is known as India’s ‘Rocket Woman’ for her contributions to space exploration. She has been an ISRO employee since 1997. Karidhal was instrumental in the construction of India’s Mars Orbiter Mission, Mangalyaan, overseeing the specification and implementation of the craft’s forward autonomous system. She was also the mission’s Deputy Operations Director. Mangalyan was one of ISRO’s crowning achievements.

Nandini Harinath

Nandini Harinath works as a rocket scientist at ISRO’s Satellite Centre in Bengaluru. She has also been a major part of Mangalyaan. She has co-written a study on mission planning, analysis, and operations. She has been part of ISRO for the past 20 years. And during her 20-year career at ISRO, she worked on 14 missions. She was the project manager, mission designer, and Deputy Operations Director for the Mangalyaan Mars Orbiter Mission.

Moumita Dutta

Moumita Dutta is an Indian physicist who works as a scientist and engineer at the Space Applications Centre (SAC) of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in Ahmedabad. She specialises in the design and testing of optical and infrared sensors, instruments, and payloads (such as cameras and imaging spectrometers). She was a member of the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) team that sent a spacecraft into orbit around Mars in 2014. She made substantial contributions to the creation of one of MOM’s five payloads.

Minal Rohit

Minal Rohit is an ISRO scientist and systems engineer. She assisted in the launch of the Mangalyaan spacecraft to Mars. Minal joined the ISRO after graduating from Nirma Institute of Technology. On the MOM team, she has collaborated with a number of mechanical engineers. She always had a keen eye on the spacecraft’s systems and methane sensors. As a system integration engineer, she joined the team that created MOM.

Muthayya Vanitha

Vanitha has spent more than three decades at ISRO. She began her career at ISRO as a junior engineer, where she worked in several areas of hardware testing and development. She rose up the ranks to oversee the Telemetry and Telecommand Divisions of ISRO Satellite Centre’s Digital Systems Group. She has also served as deputy project director on a number of satellites, including Cartosat-1, Oceansat-2, and Megha-Tropiques, where she was in charge of data operations. Vanitha was also a part of the successful Mangalyaan Mars mission in 2013.

Dr. V. R. Lalithambika

Awarded with the Space Gold Medal (2001), the ISRO Individual Merit Award, and the ISRO Performance Excellence Award. Dr. V. R. Lalithambika is an Advanced Launch Vehicle Technology expert. She started working at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thiruvananthapuram in 1988. Lalithambika has been part of a team that created rocket control and guiding systems. She has experience working with ISRO rockets such as the Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV), Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), and Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV). She has participated in nearly 100 space missions. She was also the Deputy Director (control, guidance, and simulation) at VSSC in Thiruvananthapuram before relocating to ISRO headquarters in Bengaluru.

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- Digital Writer


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