Shining Beyond The Sun: Meet Niger Shaji, ISROs Woman Scientist Who Led Aditya L1 Mission From The Front

Aditya-L1 is India’s ambitious solar mission that was launched on Saturday, September 2, 2023 from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. The mission aims to study the Sun’s corona, solar wind, magnetic field, and other phenomena that affect the Earth and the solar system. The mission consists of a satellite that carries seven scientific instruments, which will orbit around the Sun-Earth Lagrangian point L1, about 1.5 million kilometres from the Earth. The mission is expected to provide valuable insights into the Sun’s dynamics and help improve our understanding of space weather and its impact on human activities. The mission also marks a milestone for ISRO, as it is the first time that an Indian spacecraft will venture so close to the Sun.

The Indian space agency is witnessing a gradual emergence of women power in its interplanetary ventures. One of them is Niger Shaji, who is the Project Director for Aditya-L1 mission, India’s ambitious expedition to the Sun. She has been part of different projects over the years and took charge of Aditya-L1 about eight years ago.

Early Life and Education

Nigar Shaji, a native of Shengottai in Tamil Nadu, did her schooling in a government school there. She was a bright student, standing district first in her 10th standard and school first in her 12th standard. After completing her engineering degree in a college in Tirunelveli, Shaji completed her M.Tech from Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi.

Career at ISRO

Shaji then joined the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), where she has been involved in various projects over the years. About eight years ago, she was given the responsibility of heading the Aditya-L1 mission, India’s mission to the Sun. “I have been heading this complex project for eight years. It was a challenging project. To place the spacecraft in the halo orbit itself is a major challenge. Further, the payloads were also first of their kind,” Shaji told IANS.

Personal Life

Shaji’s husband is a mechanical engineer working in Dubai, while her son, who holds a Ph.D., is working in the Netherlands. Her daughter is a qualified doctor and is currently studying for her post-graduation.

Women Power at ISRO

Women power at the Indian space agency is slowly coming to the fore and that too in interplanetary missions. It may be recalled that two women played key roles in the Chandrayaan-2 mission: Project Director M.Vanitha and Mission Director Ritu Karidhal Srivastava. Similarly, in the case of Chandrayaan-3, Deputy Director Kalpana played a key role.

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