Chandrayaan-2, an interplanetary mission launched by Indian Space Research Organisation with intent to explore the lunar surface, endeavour to conduct new manoeuvres and collect information about our very own natural satellite. However, apart from the many facts which make it one of the most unique missions in India and the world is that it is ISRO’s first “All Women Lead” mission.

Yes, a new and a true picture of feminism and women equality have been established with India’s most ambitious space mission. Let us learn about the women who have put rigorous efforts for the success of the manless mission to the moon.

Muthayya Vanita, Project Director, Chandrayaan-2 

Muthayya Vanitha is ISRO Veteran Scientist who has given her services to the organization and nation with full dedication over the years. Vanitha is a graduate from College of Engineering, Chennai and has been serving as Data Handling expert at the organization for around 32 years.

Vanitha is the person who is and will be credible for every inch of success of Chandrayaan-2. It is because of her that Chandrayaan-2 has become India’s 1st project which is lead by a woman Project Director. 

At first, Vanitha was very much reluctant to accept the position of the Project Director. However, once she was on board, she surprised everyone with her sheer dedication and efforts. She is the person with the highest responsibilities of the Project as she monitored and lead the development of hardware and other aspects of the project. If we try to understand in simple words, she is the only person who was aware and responsible for the supervision of every minute aspect of the Rs. 978 crore project.

Vanitha has also received training as a Design Engineer and has been working on Indian satellites for many years. She has been awarded as “Best Women Scientist” in the year 2006 by the ‘Astronomical Society of India’. 

Ritu Karidhal, Director of Chandrayaan-2 Mission

Assisting M Vanita in the project is Ritu Karidhal, the director of the mission. Karidhal is an Aerospace Engineer and has been working at the organization for 18 years. She is efficiently called the Rocket Woman of India at ISRO for her remarkable contribution in ISRO’s various space programs. 

Karidhal has also played the role of Deputy Operations Director for India’s Mars mission “Mangalyaan” which was launched in November 2013 and was a big success. She was also the part of India’s first moon mission ‘Chandrayaan-1’. Ritu started her career at the organization in 1997 as an aerospace engineer. She has pursued her graduation from Lucknow University.

Ritu Karidhal speaks at TED Talks India: Nayi Soch (New Thinking), video recorded August 18-28, 2017, Mumbai, India. Photo: Amit Madheshiya / TED

She has also been awarded the ISRO’s ‘Young Scientist Award’ by Former President and a great scientist himself Sir APJ Abdul Kalam. 

As Mission Director for Chandrayaan-2, she has supervised the complete mission, reviewed its progress regularly and was responsible for coordinating with other agencies to accomplish the masterstroke.

Both Karidhal and Vanita are one of the senior experts at ISRO and have played a pivotal role in the organisation so far. They are credible for the success of various space missions including Chandrayaan-1, Mangalyaan and others. If we talk about the whole Chandrayaan-2 team, it consisted of around 30% of women experts, scientists and engineers. Thus, Chandrayaan-2 has marked Indian space research’s history by becoming a woman-led mission.

The two women along with many other stayed glued to their computer machines for in Mission Control Centres in Sriharikota Range and in Bengaluru, for months of tests, dry runs and the very important launch of Chandrayaan-2. They stayed intact for subsequent operations and curated the mission as a major success that it is now.

A salute to these women and their families who supported them all this time during the development, launch and deployment of the mission. It is the support of their husbands, children and parents that enabled them to endeavour such remarkable deeds.

ISRO is an organization where many great minds of the country work together for exploring new manoeuvres. Most of ISRO’s staff consists of male members. However, looking at the participation rate of a woman in ISRO’s latest and most ambitious mission, it is clear that woman is not staying behind in making the country proud as well.

Although the mission was not a 100% success and things went out of hands at the last minute due to some unknown snags, it is noteworthy that efforts of the great woman and man at the ISRO have made Chandrayaan a 95% success. The space vehicle has travelled almost 384000 km from the earth to gain information which has been unknown to mankind. 

There is still hope to re-establish the contact with the Vikram Lander in the next 13 days. Further, the moon orbiter ‘Chandrayaan-2’ is still in its designated position, orbiting the moon and it is expected to do so for a whole year. It will send a lot of photographic information and date in that duration making it a great achievement for the human civilization as a whole.

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