India has made history after a woman became the first Indian woman in space, becoming the third woman in the history of the country.
In what was hailed as the greatest spaceflight of all time, Shree Kumar, a resident of Kolkata, became the second Indian woman on board the International Space Station on Sunday (21 March).
Kumar, an accomplished pilot, spent the last month completing the first step in the country’s plan to send women into space by the end of the year.
The other two Indian women to do so were Sri Kailash, who became the world record holder for the most number of jumps in space and the first female cosmonaut, and Arvind Gupta, who was the first American woman in orbit.
“It’s very much about giving back to the country and its people,” Kumar told Reuters news agency in an interview in New Delhi on Sunday.
“We’re trying to build a better tomorrow,” she said, describing India as a “post-modern” society.
“India is a very progressive country and I am proud of that,” Kumar added.
She is the second woman to undertake the mission after Sri Kairasamma, who achieved her goal by a little more than a year and a half.
The Indian government has also offered scholarships for Indian women who want to go into space.
India’s deputy prime minister and defence minister, Sushma Swaraj, congratulated Kumar on becoming the countrys first female space pilot.
“Congratulations to Shree, a proud and accomplished woman in our country,” Swaraji said in a tweet.
“She is a role model for young women, and the whole country can see that she is an inspiration,” she added.
India has been a pioneer in spaceflight for decades, with the country taking first in the world for the first time in 1972.
Kumar is one of six Indian women in space.
Two other women have achieved the feat: the former Indian astronaut Kailasamyan, who took off in 1976, and former Indian space minister, Satyendra Jain, who flew a shuttle to the space station in 2001.
The third woman to fly in space was Sri Raghavendra Rao, who did so in 2009.