Chandrayaan 2: Meet the 'Rocket Women' Behind India's Second Lunar Mission

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India’s second moon mission Chandrayaan-2 seeking to explore the unchartered Lunar south pole by landing a rover was launched onboard its most powerful rocket GSLV-Mk0III-M1 from Sriharikota on Monday, a week after the lift-off was aborted due to a technical snag.

The mission is headed by Muthyya Vanitha as project director and Ritu Karidhal as mission director. This is the first time a project in ISRO is directed by a woman. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman, K Sivan, said in a press conference that 30% of Chandrayaan-2 team are women. So as the world is all geared up to witness the launch of Chandrayaan 2, we bring to you some facts about these two women who are leading the country’s second moon mission. Both, Muthayya Vanitha and Ritu Karidhal, have been working with ISRO for more than 20 years.

Muthayya Vanitha, Project Director for Chandrayaan 2 Moon Mission:

Along with being the first woman project director in ISRO, Muthayya Vanitha has also been the deputy project director for data systems for the remote sensing satellites Cartosat-1, Oceansat-2 and Megha-Tropiques satellite.

Vanitha has won the best woman scientist award in 2006.

Dr M Annadurai, who was project director of Chandrayaan-1 and was instrumental later in persuading Muthayya Vanitha to accept the post for Chandrayaan-2 Moon Mission, told News18.com, “Vanitha is an expert in data handling. She was comfortable in her digital/ hardware section and was hesitant to move to a project director role. This role not only involves nearly 18 hours of work a day at its peak, which means many sacrifices, but is also in the national limelight bringing heavy responsibility of its own.”

Ritu Karidhal, Mission Director for Chandrayaan 2 Moon Mission:

Known as one of the “Rocket Women” of India, Ritu knew what she wanted to do in her life since she was a child. She did M.Sc. in Physics from Lucknow University and then M.Tech from Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.

She always had the fascination about space, an urge to do something different from a normal trend.

Besides being the Mission Director for Chandrayaan-2, Ritu was associated with the Mars Orbiter Mission in 2013. She was the one who was identified to carry out the operations of the satellite.