India-born Sirisha Bandla's space trip alongside Richard Branson celebrated by country

Sir Richard Branson (left), with Ms Sirisha Bandla on his shoulders, and other crew members. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI - Ms Sirisha Bandla's trip to the edge of space alongside billionaire Richard Branson on Sunday (July 11) has been feted by Indians as an example of women from the country breaking the glass ceiling.

The vice-president of government affairs for Virgin Atlantic, who was born in Guntur district in the state of Andhra Pradesh, was one of the six members of a Virgin Galactic team that made the first fully crewed sub-orbital flight by a private space tourism company in history.

Her grandfather told Reuters that "from the beginning, she was fascinated towards the sky, looking at the sky, space, how to enter space and what is there".

Ahead of the launch, Ms Bandla had tweeted earlier this month: "I am so incredibly honoured to be a part of the amazing crew of #Unity22, and to be a part of a company whose mission is to make space available to all."

Congratulatory messages started pouring in for Ms Bandla shortly after the rocket returned from its 85km-high journey.

"Glad to know that Sirisha Bandla became the second India-born woman to fly into space. Her achievement will motivate many more young girls in India & abroad to take up challenging careers. Heartiest congratulations to Sirisha Bandla, her parents and mentors." wrote Indian Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu.

"Indian women are not just breaking glass ceilings - they're literally dismantling ALL ceilings on this planet and rocketing into space. Keep flying high @SirishaBandla. You went from Guntur to Zero-Gravity," wrote industrialist Anand Mahindra.

Mr Dharmendra Pradhan, the Minister of Education and Minister of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, wrote: "From Guntur to the edge of space, @SirishaBandla's feat will inspire young girls across the globe to break the glass ceiling and define new possibilities. Congratulate the team of #Unity22 and India-origin astronaut Sirisha for the new milestone in commercial space travel."

MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said that Ms Bandla was "rocking it totally and in style".

Even the United States Embassy in India had a message for Ms Bandla on its official Twitter page.

"Congratulations to #IndianAmerican astronaut @SirishaBandla on becoming the third Indian-origin woman after Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams to fly into space. You are an inspiration to all, Sirisha! #WomeninSTEM," it wrote.

Other than Ms Bandla, pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci and Galactic employees Beth Moses and Colin Bennett accompanied Mr Branson on the flight.

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