Rocket Ranis of ISRO: Women power to propel Chandrayaan 2

Chennai: Launching of rockets by ISRO has become more like a day-to-day activity, however, the recent announcement about the launch date of Chandrayaan-2 has made even the general public sit up and take notice.

Chandrayaan-2 will be launched 15 July and be a milestone in ISRO’s history. This is the third outer space exploration mission for ISRO after Chandrayaan-1 and the Mars Orbiter Mission.

So, with the launch to take place in less than a month, News Today brings a brief history of the mission.

Before we get into the details, it must be noted that this will be first project headed by two women in ISRO – Ritu Karidhal and Muthayya Vanitha.

Ritu is the Mission Director and Vanitha, Project Director. The Project Director is part of mission preparation over the years, while the Mission Director gets involved once the satellite is injected into orbit.

Both of them have been associated with ISRO for close to two decades now and were part of several launches as well as development of sub-systems for satellites. ISRO has previously had women project directors for the launch of communication and other satellites.

Muthayya Vanitha and Ritu Karidhal

Vanitha has been 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.

Ritu will handle 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.

Ritu, who holds a master’s degree in the field of Aerospace Engineering from IISc, came into the limelight during the India’s Mars Orbiter Mission – Mangalyaan. A picture of the women scientists celebrating after the success of the mission went viral on social media. She was the Deputy Operations Director for the mission and was responsible for conceptualisation and execution of the craft’s onward autonomy system.

She earned the nickname ‘Rocket Woman’ for her work. She joined ISRO in 1997 and was awarded the young scientist award in 2007 which she received from the then President A P J Abdul Kalam.
Vanitha, an electronics systems engineer, was heading the Telemetry and Telecommand Divisions in the Digital Systems Group, ISRO Satellite Centre. She had also worked as Deputy Projects Director for TTC-baseband systems for Cartosat-1 and is the Deputy Project Director, Digital Systems for Oceansat-2 and Megha-Tropiques satellite. She was awarded the Best Woman Scientist Award in 2006.

ISRO Chairman K Sivan, in a recent press conference, said close to 30 per cent of the team working on Chandrayaan 2 are women.

“We only looked at the fittest person for the job, and it so happened that it was women here. It didn’t make a difference to us,” said Sivan.

Balasubramani Muniyandi