Vanitha is an expert in data handling. She has excellent problem-solving skills and is good at managing teams. She had earlier interpreted data coming from different payloads of spacecraft like Chandrayaan-1. Now, she is looking after Chandrayaan-2 from its inception to completion. Ritu Karidhal had been involved in various mission operations. One of the key tasks will be to handle lunar orbital insertion of the craft. Karidhal was earlier deputy operations director of the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), India's first successful interplanetary mission launched in 2013.
On Chandrayaan-2's team strength, Isro chairman K Sivan told TOI, "It is possible to define the boundaries (of work). For each project, for all the strength of 17,000 staff) is contributing in some form. "That's the network culture. It's an unspoken contribution. There are unsung heroes … in thousands. Therefore, it is always correct to say. Team Isro." However, a source in Isro told TOI, "Thought all employees contribute to a program in some way, in missions like Chandraayan-2, around 300 members are integral to it and 20-30 per cent of them are women."
Women had always played key roles in interplanetary and satellite missions. In fact, a young women team had a shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts for MOM. "MOM was a big challenge. We had to be ready for it in 18 months. It was difficult "But we worked tirelessly and devised the software in 10 months," Karidhal said during a talk show.
Under its Gaganyaan mission, India is planning to send one woman astronaut, along with two others, to space. Interestingly, a woman scientist VR Lalithambika, as head of the human space program office, is helping with mission coordination and working with Human Space Flight Center, the center for Gaganyaan mission led by its director S Unnikrishnan Nair. Indian space science has always been dominated by men. Have struggled to manage home and office affairs, women scientists had played vital roles in space missions but hardly got the limelight they deserved. However, MOM and Chandrayaan missions have shown that women are ready to brave all odds to lead the show.
Vanitha Muthayya: project director, Chandrayaan-2 Headed telemetry and telecommand divisions in digital systems group, Isro Satellite Center (now U R Rao Space Center). Worked as deputy project director for TTC-baseband systems for Cartosat-1 and deputy project director for Oceansat-2 and Megha-Tropiques satellites. Awarded Best Woman Scientist Award in 2006.
Ritu Karidhal: mission director, Chandrayaan-2 Was deputy operations director of Mars Orbiter Mission, India's first interplanetary mission. From a middle class family in Lucknow, Karidhal, as a child, always thought about what existed beyond the dark space. Karidhal, who joined IIS to pursue her masters in aerospace engineering, has been working for ISRO since 1997. In 2007, she received the Isro Young Scientist Award from former President APJ Abdul Kalam.
Women on top
TK Anuradha: Handles geo satellite launches | Works as geosat program director at UR Rao Space Center. Has overseen launches of Gsat-12 and Gsat-10. She is the seniormost woman scientist in Isro, having joined agency in 1982, and also the first woman to become a satellite project director
N Valarmathi: Oversees sat launches | As project director of Risat-1, India's first radar imaging sat, she is the first person to receive Abdul Kalam Award instituted by Tamil Nadu. She has been involved in key satellite missions like Insat-2A, IRS-IC, IRS-ID & Technology Experiment Satellite
VR Lalithambika: Coordination head for Gaganyaan mission | Playing one of the leading roles in human spaceflight mission. Specialist in advanced launcher tech. Instrumental in the launch of record 104 satellites in one go. The proximity of her house to Thumba testing center got her attracted to Isro
Key faces of Mars Orbiter Mission
Seetha Somasundaram: Program director, space science program office | Isro's leading space science instrumentation expert. Was involved in payload characterization and calibration of Mangalyaan
Nandini Harinath: Deputy operations director, Mars Orbiter Mission | Was operations director for Risat-1, India's first radar satellite imaging. Was asked to be one of the 'focal points' of the Mars mission. Her first exposure to science was TV series 'Star Trek'
Minal Rohit: Project manager (Mars mission) | A systems engineer in Isro, worked on making methane sensor for the Mars mission. For MOM, she & his team remained confined to a room & worked for 18 hrs a day
Moumita Dutta: Project manager (Mars mission) | Contributed in the development of Mars payload. Currently heads up a team making progress in optical science, part of 'Make in India' initiative
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