Chandrayaan 2, the space mission led by women was a moment of glory for India. Out of many women with the sky-rocketing ambitions involved in the mission, one is Seetha Somasundaram. Somasundaram is the Program Director at Space Science Program Office. She is one of the leading space science experimentation experts at ISRO. She was involved in payload characterization and calibration of Mangalyaan.
Seetha Somasundaram’s Educational background
Somasundaram has completed her B.Sc (Hons) from Hindu College from the University Delhi. Later, she secured her M.Sc degree from IIT, Madras. For her work on white dwarf pulsators, she obtained her Ph.D. in Physics from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
As a student of astronomy, Somasundaram has specific interests in the study of variable stars in X-ray and optical bands. Moreover, she has extensively contributed to the development of instruments for the various space-based astronomical experiments which were conducted over the years.
Program Director at ISRO Space Science Program Office
Somasundaram was the Program Director at ISRO Space Science Program Office. She was the woman who successfully led the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), precisely remembered as Mangalyaan. It was launched on November 5, 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
“The most remarkable thing about the success of MOM was that India became the first country in the entire world to have reached Mars in the very first attempt.” – Seetha Somasundaram
Women in Science and Engineering
Somasundaram once put forth her views about the perception of those people who considered women as less competitive and dedicated to their work.
“In the 1980s, when I joined ISRO, there were very few women in the engineering and science groups, so seniors questioned whether women would be able to handle the rigor involved in this work. They believed that women would work for limited hours because they needed to go home. They would not stay back if there was a problem. They would not be committed. Gradually, the women who joined ISRO dispelled that feeling,” the wire reported.
Principal Investigator of Astrosat
Somasundaram is also assigned the responsibility as the Principal Investigator of Astrosat. Astrosat is India’s first space telescope that was launched three years ago. It is a multi-wavelength astronomy observatory. The telescopes can simultaneously observe the sky in X-ray, optical & UV spectral bands.
Challenges as a woman
“As a woman, I have faced many challenges. But, I got family support in balancing my professional career with my personal lifem” Somasundaram said. She even recalls the time when there were very few women when she joined ISRO. However, she also added that it was great to see that more and more women are joining in now.
“In the 1980s, when I joined ISRO, there were very few women in the engineering and science groups, so seniors questioned whether women would be able to handle the rigor involved in this work. They believed that women would work for limited hours because they needed to go home. They would not stay back if there was a problem. They would not be committed. Gradually, the women who joined ISRO dispelled that feeling,”
Awards and Honours
Somasundaram has received various awards in her career. In 2003, she was bagged with C V Raman Young scientist award in Physics. She was even accorded the best woman scientist award for the year 2012 from the Astronautica Society of India.
Udisha Srivastav is an intern with SheThePeople.TV