India will launch a lunar mission on July 15. With this, it will become the fourth country to land on the moon. And what makes this feat special is that two women ­–mission director Ritu Karidhal and the project director Vanitha M are heading this exercise. In fact, women employees account for nearly 30 per cent of India’s space agency’s total workforce.

Aim of the mission

The Chandrayaan2 mission aims to deliver a rover to an elevated plane close to the uncharted lunar South Pole on September 6 or 7 and investigate the surface for signs of water and potentially new sources of abundant energy. It’s one step in an envisioned progression that includes putting a space station in orbit and — eventually — landing a crew on the moon.

“Chandrayaan 2 is just the third time that ISRO is embarking on an outer space exploration mission — after Chandrayaan 1 and Mars Orbiter Mission — and women have made their mark here as well. 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 for us…

The idea is to explore virgin territory on the lunar surface and analyze crust samples for signs of water and Helium-3. That isotope is limited on Earth yet so abundant on the moon that it theoretically could meet global energy demands for 250 years if harnessed.

The rover will send pictures of the lunar surface within 20 minutes of landing. The landing area in South Pole was chosen as it has no craters or boulders and is nearly flat with very good visibility due to solar light.” ISRO chairman K Sivan told reporters.

He also said that women scientists have played major roles in previous satellite launches and projects.

“Chandrayaan-2 is just the third time that ISRO is embarking on an outer space exploration mission — after Chandrayaan 1 and Mars Orbiter Mission — and women have made their mark here as well. 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 for us…,” –  ISRO chairman K Sivan

In fact, 30% of the Chandrayaan 2 team are women, he announced.

Know more about these two power women

M. Vanitha, Chandrayaan-2 project director, is the first woman in such capacity at the Indian Space Research Organisation. A design engineer by training, Vanitha was awarded best woman scientist in 2006 by the Astronautical Society of India. The role of a project director is like that of a chief executive, and requires not just technical understanding, but a lot of coordination skills.

Ritu Karidhal was a Deputy Operations Director to India’s Mars orbital mission, Mangalyaan. She has been referred to as a “Rocket Woman” of India. She was born and brought up in Lucknow and is an aerospace engineer. She has also worked for many other earlier ISRO projects and served as Operations Director for some of these. She received the ISRO Young Scientist Award in 2007 from A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, then President of India.

Karidhal has also presented at TED and TEDx events describing the success of the Mars Orbiter Mission.

Also: Can Lead Fruitful Lives & Launch Rockets : Minnie Vaid’s Book on ISRO Women

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