Chandrayaan 2: Meet India’s ‘Rocket Women’ who are leading the country’s second moon mission!

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Published: June 14, 2019 5:06:53 PM

ISRO scientist Ritu Karidhal and electronics system engineer Muthayya Vanitha, both in their 40s, will be leading the Moon Mission’s main components- project oversight as well as crucial final phase of the landing.

ISROISRO scientist Ritu Karidhal and electronics system engineer Muthayya Vanitha, both in their 40s, will be leading the Moon Mission’s main components

Chandrayaan 2: India’s second quest to the Moon which is all set for official launch on July 15, is spearheaded by two women at the supreme helm of all things! India’s very own ‘Rocket Women’, as popularly titled for their superior scientific expertise are leading Chandrayaan 2, the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) pivotal Lunar project. ISRO scientist Ritu Karidhal and electronics system engineer Muthayya Vanitha, both in their 40s, will be leading the Moon Mission’s main components- project oversight as well as crucial final phase of the landing. Ritu Karidhal, who was the deputy operations manager for the Mars Mission will now be the mission director for Chandrayaan 2. Karidhal holds a master’s degree in the field of Aerospace Engineering from the prestigious Indian Institute of Science (IISc). Muthayya Vanitha will be the project director for Chandrayaan 2 and is an electronics systems engineer. With scientific prowess and critical expertise for Space Engineering, these senior women space scientists have been associated with ISRO for close to two decades now and were a part of launches as well as sub-system development for satellites.

K Sivan, ISRO Chairman was quoted in a report by The Indian Express as saying that Chandrayaan-2 will mark a historic achievement as it is the first time for a planetary mission where women scientists are in charge. ISRO has previously had women project directors for the launch of communication and other satellites. According to K Radhakrishnan, former ISRO chairman, a project director is responsible for the project from the very beginning, which involves getting the entire system configured, reviewed, assembled and implemented, and also to become a single-point authority for the overall project.

He added that a mission director handles all the things which have to be done on the spacecraft from the time it is inserted into the orbit, from the initial operations, raising the orbit to taking all the contingency actions when required. Whereas the project director is to be a part of the task for years, while the mission director gets involved once the satellite is injected into orbit.

M Annadurai was quoted saying that from a project point of view, this will be the first time that Vanitha is in charge and it is a big turning point for her. However, she was in charge of another domain of making data handling systems for all their remote-sensing satellites. M Annadurai added that this is not something new for ISRO, to have women in charge of core projects. M Annadurai was the project director for Chandrayaan 1 as well as Chandrayaan 2, but later quit the project.

Quick Facts: Know Muthayya Vanitha, Project Director, Chandrayaan 2

  • She was the winner of the best woman scientist award of the Astronautical Society of India in the year 2006, and has been the deputy project director for data systems for the remote sensing satellites Cartosat-1, Oceansat-2 and Megha-Tropiques.
  • She also headed the telemetry as well as the telecommand divisions at the digital systems group at the satellite centre, which is now the UR Rao Space Centre.
  • She was a key scientist involved in ensuring that the Mangalyaan satellite which was launched on November 5, 2013

Quick Facts: Know Ritu Karidhal, Mission Director, Chandrayaan 2

  • A simple girl from the city of Lucknow, she got a chance to be associated with the Mars Mission with her never ending inquisitive spirit to know more about outer space.
  • For the Mars Mission, she was one of the persons who was identified to carry out the operations of the satellite. The automation on board was done for the first time in the Mars mission and Karidhal assisted in all of these operations. This is regarded as the turning point of her scientific career.

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