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Making ‘space’ for women

Friday October 8, 2021, By Diversity Digest

The World Space Week 2021 held between October 4 and October 10 is celebrating women in space technology.

IIT-Roorkee in collaboration with ISRO has a host of topics presented in virtual sessions by women scientists on ‘Women in Space’.

The sessions include strategic insights on space technology, aerospace systems, and the working of the Indian space programs.

IIT-Roorkee is commemorating the special week for the last four years. It aims to turn the spotlight on the contribution of people to various aspects of science, technology, and space.

India has had its tryst with space technology for decades now. Kalpana Chawla was the first woman of Indian origin to go into space, followed by names like Sunita Williams and Shirisha Bandla.

Some years ago, when Indian scientists put a satellite in orbit around Mars, pictures of cheering women in ISRO clad in sarees and flowers were splashed in newspapers, turning the spotlight on women in the field. While they may not be the women directly involved, the project involved women scientists like Ritu Karidhal. Tessy Thomas, dubbed as the missile woman of India, is the first woman scientist to head a missile project in India, is seen as a motivation for more to enter the field.

Leaps of progress are being made, with the latest being the sensational video of Swati Mohan, an Indian-American aerospace engineer, who was instrumental in the development and landing of NASA’s Perseverance rover.

As per NASA, by March 2021, 65 women have flown in space. Of these, 38 have visited the International Space Station as long-duration expedition crew members, as visitors on space shuttle assembly flights, or as space flight participants. The contribution of women in the field is paramount. In the words of Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in the world to go on a space voyage almost six decades ago: A bird cannot fly with one wing only. Human space flight cannot develop any further without the active participation of women. The same is true today as consistent efforts are needed to increase the numbers for the field to benefit, and for women to realize their fullest potential in the field.

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