Nigar Shaji, the accomplished scientist at the UR Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru, stands as the project director for India’s groundbreaking Aditya L-1 satellite, the country’s first space-based solar observatory. Shaji’s leadership has played a pivotal role in guiding the satellite through a 3.7 million km journey, allowing continuous solar observations.
In a significant assertion against gender bias, Shaji emphasizes that at ISRO, there is no glass ceiling for women—only talent matters. The achievements of women like M Vanitha, Thenmozhi Selvi K, and Kalpana K further exemplify the diverse roles women play in various missions at ISRO.
Aditya L1, a complex scientific satellite, is a testament to Shaji’s nine years of relentless dedication. Born in rural Sengottai, Tamil Nadu, Shaji draws inspiration from her father, Sheik Meeran, who chose farming after earning a mathematics degree. Breaking away from societal expectations, Shaji pursued engineering, later obtaining a master’s in electronics.
As programme director for lower Earth orbit and planetary missions, Shaji oversees the development of ISRO’s low-earth orbiting spacecraft and interplanetary missions. Her pivotal role extends to being the project director for the Aditya-L1 spacecraft, positioned at the Sun-Earth Lagrangian point for solar studies.
Shaji’s career trajectory, from spacecraft test engineer to holding responsibilities for missions to Venus and studying planets beyond the solar system, reflects her significant contributions to space exploration.
Aditya L1, currently orbiting 1.5 million km from Earth, aims to provide continuous solar observations, offering crucial insights into solar activities. Shaji’s leadership has been integral to the successful deployment of the satellite, marking a milestone in India’s space endeavors.
In the face of long hours and intricate interplanetary missions, Shaji encourages aspiring youngsters to have a solid support system at home. For her, the unwavering support of her mother has been instrumental in navigating the complexities of space technology.
As Aditya L1 begins its mission, Shaji’s smile symbolizes not only the success of the mission but also the breaking of gender stereotypes at ISRO. The achievements of women like her underscore that talent, irrespective of gender, thrives in the dynamic realm of space exploration.
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