The photo of women scientists that took the internet by storm

In honor of this year’s Diwali celebration, DiscovHER wants to recognize and honor the incredible women scientists in India and the amazing work they are doing!

By now we have all seen the photo that went viral after India’s Mars mission successfully put a satellite into orbit around the Red Planet. The photo of “a bunch of smiling Indian women resplendent in gorgeous saris greeting each other” was not only inspirational, but also served to communicate another image of female scientists, far removed from the isolated woman in a lab wearing a white coat and glasses.

It is also a reminder to reflect on the important role that women scientists play in the success of missions and projects such as this one. Not only has India succeeded in reaching Mars at a price of $74 million (compared to the U.S.’s $671 million Mars mission), but it also succeeded on its first attempt: something no other country has done.

So, who are some of these extraordinary women who have contributed to the success of “MOM” (the Mars Orbit Mission)?

Nandini Harinath, deputy operations director (and mother of two!) was in charge of operating the spacecraft between Earth and Mars. And Minal Sampath, a systems engineer, led a team that built three instruments for the mission. In an article published by the BBC in February, Sampath stated that “I want women to imagine that they can do this”, when it comes to working at ISRO. There is, of course, work to be done, as only one in ten scientists on the Mars Mission is a woman. 

We are inspired and empowered by the photo, and the outpour of support it received via social media. So, we scanned Twitter for some of our favorite reactions to this photo. Here are a few:

A discussion about women’s representation at the Indian Space Research Organization

An homage to the heroes of the day

Sharing sheer emotion

A reflection about what modernity really is

And last but not least, a strong message about the power of Indian women

What female scientists are inspiring you these days? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter at @4womeninscience!

For Women in Science

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