One giant leap for the skies

Kavya Manyapu  


Kavya is the lone Indian woman flight test engineer on the team developing Boeing’s commercial space exploration flight for NASA

Kavya Manyapu could be just another ordinary woman in her mid twenties. Only she isn’t. Growing up in Alwal, the student of St. Ann’s, Bolarum dreamt of the skies and was fascinated by the stars. Today, the 28-year-old is right up there, an inspiration for many.

Kavya is the lone Indian woman flight test engineer on the team developing Boeing’s commercial space exploration flight for NASA. The project, meanwhile, is one that has caught the attention of experts from around the world.

“People wish to travel in space and it will be a reality one day. I am excited to be a part of the project,” Kavya told The Hindu in an exclusive chat.

One of these spacecrafts, the STS-100, is slated to replace NASA’s space shuttle to the International Space Station. Kavya has contributed to the design and development of the STS-100’s cockpit display and its safe exit strategies.

After moving to the US in 2002, Kavya earned herself a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and later an MS in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the prestigious MIT. She has worked on several space projects for NASA, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, MIT, and Georgia Tech and on Human Mars exploration programmes.

In 2010, she was selected to be a crew member for Analog Mars Mission, a project set in the Mars Desert Research Station in USA’s Utah State. The project intended to develop technologies for human exploration of Mars, something Kavya is excited about.

“I may not see humans going to Mars in my lifetime, but I am excited that I am a part of such a project on Earth,” she says.


The talented youngster wears many hats. A trained pilot and a certified Scuba diver, Kavya also has a deep passion for Indian classical arts, holding a diploma in performing arts from Potti Sriramulu Telugu University. She also won the ‘Balashree’ award from the President in 1999.

A regular motivational speaker at the Telugu Association’s meetings in the USA, Kavya feels happy to inspire students to pursue careers in engineering and science.

“I also volunteer as a mentor to high school students as a part of the NASA Aerospace Scholars programme,” says Kavya. She credits her father Raghav Rao, a former employee at the Indian Overseas Bank, for inspiring her with the story of Rakesh Sharma’s space flight in 1984. Her husband Chetan Vemula, an electrical engineer, has backed her all the way through, she says.

What would she tell young Indian dreamers?

“If you have a passion for something, go for it. Perseverance pays and sky is the limit.”

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Printable version | Aug 17, 2017 9:46:59 PM | http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/one-giant-leap-for-the-skies/article5587370.ece