V. R. Lalithambika: Indian Engineer and Scientist

V. R. Lalithambika: Indian Engineer and Scientist

Meet the 60 year old woman scientist V. R. Lalithambika who leading India’s Gaganyaan mission- India’s First ‘Manned Mission’ to Space.

India is gearing up for its manned mission to space, led by Dr. VR Lalithambika, an experienced control systems engineer and skilled taskmaster at ISRO for the past thirty years.

Her crucial contributions to over 100 space missions, including the successful launch of 104 satellites in a single mission, shows her remarkable impact on India’s space exploration efforts. Today’s story is about her.

Lalithambika was born in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. She grew up around engineers, including her father and her uncle. Her interest in science came from her grandfather, who was a mathematician. She would enjoy watching rockets launch from Thumba every Wednesday with her grandfather.

After completing her electrical engineering degree, Lalithambika performed excellently in the GATE exam, with a chance to attend IIT Madras.

However, family pressures and being an only child, led to her immediate marriage after college. However, she pursued an MTech degree while managing the responsibilities of motherhood. 

During this period, Lalithambika received support from a helpful friend to manage her studies. Before joining ISRO in 1988, she worked at two colleges in Kerala and also accomplished her PhD while being part of ISRO.

When she started her career at Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC) in 1988, ISRO was in the early stages of developing indigenous launch vehicles, making it an exciting yet challenging time for engineers. However, the initial attempts faced setbacks, with the first ASLV launch failing just before Lalithambika’s arrival, followed by another unsuccessful attempt three months into her job.

The next significant trial arrived on September 20, 1993, with the preparation of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) for its maiden launch. For Lalithambika, juggling long work hours with the responsibilities of a mother to an infant was doubly challenging. Unfortunately, the launch ended in disappointment, marking a third setback.

But she did not stop here. Their hard work paid off as the 1994 PSLV mission and the following 39 launches were successful, establishing it as ISRO’s reliable ‘workhorse’.

What motivates us is that she never had to look back after this.

It’s a moment of great significance for India, especially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in his Independence Day speech that the country would send one of its own into space, proudly hoisting the tricolor.

Let’s come together in the comments to extend our heartfelt support and best wishes to Dr. VR Lalithambika as she leads India’s mission to space.

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