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Know all about Ritu Karidhal, Chandrayaan 2 Mission Director

Ritu Karidhal, Chandrayaan 2 Mission Director
Ritu Karidhal, Chandrayaan 2 Mission Director
Ritu Karidhal, the deputy operations director of the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) and the mission director of Chandrayaan 2. She has been referred to as a "Rocket Woman" of India. She was born and brought up in Lucknow and is an aerospace engineer.

She grew up in a middle-class family which placed great emphasis on education. She has two brothers and two sisters. Lack of resources and unavailability of coaching institutions and tuitions left her to rely only on her self motivation to succeed. As a child, she knew that her interest was in the space sciences. Gazing at the night sky for hours and thinking about outer space, she wondered about the moon, as to how it changes its shape and size; studied the stars and wanted to know what lay behind the dark space. In her teens, she started collecting newspaper cuttings about any space-related activity and kept track of the activities of ISRO and NASA.

Karidhal completed her B. Sc. in Physics from the University of Lucknow. She passed the I.I.Sc. Entrance Test and joined Indian Institute of Science(IISc) to pursue three-year M. E. degree in Aerospace engineering.

Ritu joined ISRO as a young engineer in November 1997. Her physics background led to her first posting in the Mission Analysis division with Dr Kesava Raju (who later became the Mission Director for MOM) as her boss.

According to Ritu, ISRO provides a very positive atmosphere. What matters here is your talent, not your gender. You get challenging work. For her first assignment, many senior men were eligible, but it was given to her. She concedes that the stereotypes in the world of science — the image of the male doctor and the female nurse, for example - need to change.

Ritu believes, with ISRO itself breaking the glass ceiling gradually. 'Senior women scientists in the fields of remote sensing and communication satellites have become programme directors, and once the numbers increase, a woman director will not be a rarity'.

Ritu has been awarded ISRO’s Young Scientist award in 2007 from A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, then president of India, for her work in mission planning and operations.

Ritu’s mantras combine pragmatism with hope, as she outlines how they have worked well in her own career. When work began on MOM in 2012, Ritu's son was nine and her daughter was just four years old, so she has to multitask and double the effort. Ritu configured a small setup on her laptop and used to be up till three or four am, completing tasks for MOM.

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