Women's power at the Indian space agency is slowly coming to the fore and that too in the interplanetary missions. The latest is Nigar Shaji, Project Director for Aditya-L1 mission, India’s mission to the Sun.

A native of Shengottai in Tamil Nadu, the 59-year-old Shaji did her schooling in a government school there.

A bright student, she stood district first in her 10th standard and school first in her 12th standard. Shaji obtained an engineering degree in electronics and communications from Madurai Kamaraj University and did her masters in electronics at Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi.

She joined the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s Satellite Centre, now U R Rao Satellite Centre, in 1987.

At ISRO Nigar went on to make significant contributions to the Indian Remote Sensing, communication, and interplanetary satellite programmes while serving in various positions.

Over the years she was involved in various projects and assumed responsibility for Aditya-L1, the sun probe, eight years back.

“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 its kind,” Shaji told IANS.

She said her husband, a mechanical engineer, is working in Dubai, a son who has a PhD, is working in the Netherlands as a scientist and the daughter is a doctor doing her post-graduation.

Nigar Shaji has served as the Associate Project Director of Resourcesat-2A, the Indian Remote Sensing Satellite for National Resource Monitoring and Management. At present, she is the Project Director of Aditya-L1 mission.

Shaji has published papers in system engineering, image compression, and space internetworking.