“India is now on the Moon and the sky is not the limit,” declared Prime Minister Narendra Modi as India’s Chandrayaan 3 spacecraft landed near the lunar south pole of the moon. India became the first country to be able to achieve this feat. The Indian spacecraft managed to land in this completely unexplored part of the Moon, birthing possibilities of several new researches and explorations. And it was none other than Ritu Karidhal and the competent team at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) that made it possible for India to create history.

Ritu Karidhal, popularly called the ‘Rocket Woman of India’ led the mission to send India to the moon. Her efforts combined with the collective endeavours of the other ISRO scientists including ISRO Chairman S Somanath, Project Director P Veeramuthuvel, Deputy Project Director Kalpana K, made India the fourth nation after the US, Soviet Union and China to have successfully landed a spacecraft on the Moon. Let’s get to know the ‘Rocket Woman of India’ a little better.

Meet the prime mover behind the Chandrayaan-3 mission, Ritu Karidhal Srivastava

The aerospace engineer working in ISRO is a resident of Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow. Belonging to a middle-class family, good education was always a top priority for her folks. Having no resources to join coaching institutions, Ritu relied on self-study to achieve success. Working in ISRO was a goal she wanted to achieve ever since she was a child. Her interest in the space sciences landed her with a degree in B.Sc. in Physics from the University of Lucknow. She went on to complete her M.Sc. in Physics from the same university and went on to enroll herself in a doctorate course in the Physics Department. After finishing her studies, ISRO scientist Ritu Karidhal taught in the same department. She then joined IISc Bangalore to gain a master’s degree in aerospace engineering. In 2019, Lucknow University granted the Rocket Woman of India honoris causa (an honorary doctorate) D.Sc during their annual convocation.

Her journey with ISRO

Ritu Karidhal joined ISRO in 1997 and has been a part of many important space missions since then. Her great contribution to the world of space is why people call her the ‘Rocket Woman of India’. She went on to play a key role in the development of India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), Mangalyaan. Being the Deputy Operations Director of this 2013 mission, she meticulously worked on the detailing and the implementation of the craft’s onward autonomy system, which controlled the satellite’s functions autonomously in space and reacted suitably to malfunctions.

Mangalyan is considered to be one of the greatest accomplishments achieved by ISRO scientists. This achievement made India the fourth country in the world to reach Mars. It was due to Ritu Karidhal’s labour that this task was achieved in 18 months and at a far lesser cost.

Her association with the Chandrayaan 2 mission

Before working on the Chandrayaan-3 mission, Ritu Karidhal supervised the Chandrayaan 2 mission as the mission director. Apart from this, she has also worked on The Chandrayaan-1 mission, The GSAT-6A mission, and The GSAT-7A mission.

Recognition received by the Chandrayaan 3 mission leader

Ritu Karidhal was awarded the ISRO Young Scientist Award in 2007 by the then-president of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. She was presented with the ISRO Team Award in 2015 for her important role in Mangalyaan’s success. Ritu Karidhal was also listed in BBC’s prestigious “100 Women” list for shattering gender biases in the STEM field. She was also appointed to a newly formed Gender Equality Advisory Council (GEAC) by United Kindom’s Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss when the country assumed the presidency of the G7 in 2021. Other awards included the ASI Team Award, Women Achievers in Aerospace, 2017 by the Society of Indian Aerospace Technologies & Industries (SIATI).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

– Is Ritu Karidhal in Chandrayaan-3?
Ritu Karidhal lead the Chandrayaan-3 mission.

– What is the role of Ritu Karidhal in Chandrayaan-3?
Ritu Karidhal Srivastava, Senior scientist at ISRO, spearheaded the entire mission.

– When did Ritu Karidhal join ISRO?
She joined ISRO in 1997.

– What are the achievements of Ritu Karidhal?
She was the Deputy Operations Director of India’s 2013 Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), Mangalyaan.

Hero & Feature Image: Courtesy Pallava Bagla/Getty Images

This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia India