Jeff Bezos blasted into space July 20 on his rocket company Blue Origin’s first flight with people on board, becoming the second billionaire in just over a week to ride his own spacecraft, AP reported from Van Horn, Texas.
Following the grand Richard Branson show where he carried Indian American Sirisha Bandla and fellow space travelers on his shoulders after successfully flying to the edge of space, it is time for Amazon’s founder to applaud Sanjal Gavande, one of the key engineers who designed the New Shephard rocket that took Bezos and the crew to the edge of space aboard what is touted as the world's first unpiloted suborbital flight.
Born in Kalyan, Maharashtra, Gavande is an Indian American systems engineer at Blue Origin who always dreamt of designing aerospace rockets.
After completing her bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Mumbai, she flew to the U.S. in 2011 to pursue a master's in mechanical engineering from Michigan Technological University.
She also applied for an engineering job at the NASA space agency but finally landed her dream job at Blue Origin as a systems engineer.
Bezos was accompanied by his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Mary Wallace 'Wally' Funk and other passengers on the rocket.
Bezos chose July 20 as the launch date to honor the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
On July 12, Bandla touched the edge of space with three others, including Virgin Galactic's billionaire CEO Richard Branson.
“Best day ever!” Bezos said when the capsule touched down on the desert floor in remote West Texas after the 10-minute flight, AP reported.
“My expectations were high and they were dramatically exceeded,” Bezos said later.
Blue Origin — founded by Bezos in 2000 in Kent, Washington, near Amazon’s Seattle headquarters — hasn’t revealed its price for a ride to space but has lined up spots for other auction bidders. Ticket sales, including the auction, are approaching $100 million, Bezos said. Two more flights are planned by year’s end.
According to an NDTV report, Gavande is the daughter of Ashok Gavande, a retired employee of the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation, and Surekha, a retired MTNL employee who told the Times of India that her daughter had been interested in space since she was a child.
"I am really happy that my childhood dream is about to come true. I am proud to be a part of Team Blue Origin," Gavande told ToI by phone.
She has also worked with Mercury Marine after finishing her master’s degree, as well as with Toyota racing development at Orange City in California," her father Ashok Gavande told India Today.
"People told us that she is a girl, so why has she opted for mechanical engineering? I also thought sometimes about whether she would be able to handle such hard work. She has now made us all proud. She had a dream of design aerospace rockets and she has achieved it," Gavande's proud mother said, according to NDTV.