Mangalyaan was India's maiden mission to Mars. Launched on 5th November 2013, it made India the 4th country to place a satellite into the orbit of the Red Planet. It also made ISRO the first space organisation to achieve the feat in its first attempt.
Mangalyaan had a force of around of 500 working on making the mission a success, but some of the major contributions were made by women, who constituted about 27% of the the key executive positions in the mission to Mars.
Here are some stories of women whose contributions were crucial to the success of the Mangalyaan mission.
1. Ritu Karidhal, Deputy Operations Director for Mangalyaan.
Often hailed as the 'Rocket Woman of India', Ritu Karidhal is currently working on ISRO's second mission to the Moon, Chandrayaan-2. Ritu has a self-proclaimed interest in space. She has mentioned in an interview with BBC that as a child, she was an avid sky-watcher.
2. Nandini Harinath Project Manager, Mission Designer & Deputy Operations Director for Mangalyaan.
Nandini's first brush with science was through Star Trek. The job at ISRO was the first job she had applied for and she still calls the Space Agency her home over 20 years later. She has worked on 14 missions in her time at the Agency.
She was the Mission Designer and Deputy Operations Director for Mangalyaan.
3. Anuradha TK
Currently, Anuradha is the Project Director at ISRO for their communication satellites. She is an incredibly decorated scientist.
She joined ISRO in 1982, and went on to become the first female satellite project director at the space agency. In 2003, she won a 'Space Gold Medal' awarded by the Aeronautical Society of India, for her services in the field of space sciences. In 2011, she won the ‘Suman Sharma’ award by the National Design and Research Forum of IEI. In 2012, she won two more awards – the ASI-ISRO Merit Award for realisation of Indigenous Communication Spacecraft and the ISRO team award for being the team lead for GSAT-12.
4. Moumita Dutta, Project Manager for Mangalyaan
Moumita Dutta is a physicist at the Space Applications Centre, and an expert in developing and testing the Optical and IR sensors/instruments/payloads for space missions. She was the person behind one of Mangalyaan's payloads.
5. Minal Rohit, Project Manager and System Engineer for Mangalyaan
Minal, a gold medallist in Electronics and Communications Engineering from NITS, Ahmedabad, started her career at ISRO as a Satellite Communications Engineer.
6. Dr Seetha Somasundaram, Program Director at ISRO’s Space Science Programme
Dr Seetha joined ISRO in the 1980s, and has contributed significantly to the development of the instruments for various space-based astronomical experiments. She and her team was responsible for making sure all the payloads work properly.