Women are taking the lead in India’s space endeavors in an extraordinary development that has captured global attention. This remarkable shift is exemplified by the appointment of Nigar Shaji, a Muslim woman scientist, as the Director of the Indian Space and Research Organisation (ISRO) for the Aditya-L1 solar mission. Aditya-L1, designed to observe the Sun, marks another significant milestone in India’s space journey.
Nigar Shaji, a 59-year-old scientist, hails from Shengottai, a town 55 kilometers from Tamil Nadu’s capital, Chennai. The daughter of a farmer, her journey into space exploration began over three decades ago.
Her attire, a humble cotton Salwar-Kameez, reflects her unassuming nature as she addressed the media after the successful launch of Aditya-L1 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.
Shaji’s academic foundation was laid at the Shengottai government higher secondary school, where she completed her schooling in English medium. She pursued her engineering degree at the Tirunelveli government engineering college and joined ISRO in 1987.
Today, with 35 years of dedicated service, she is the project director of Aditya-L1, India’s inaugural space-based mission designed to study the Sun.
Shaji resides in Bengaluru with her mother and daughter, while her husband, an engineer, works in Dubai, UAE. Her son is a scientist based in the Netherlands.
ISRO acknowledged Shaji’s multifaceted contributions, which include holding various positions within the Indian Remote Sensing, Communications, and Interplanetary Satellite Programme. Her journey to the helm of the Aditya-L1 mission is a testament to her dedication and expertise.
After the triumphant launch of Aditya L1, Nigar Shaji expressed gratitude to ISRO Chief S. Somnath and the directors for entrusting her team with this significant mission. Her leadership exemplifies India’s commitment to space exploration and underscores the growing role of women in shaping the future of space science and research.
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