Who is Nigar Shaji, the woman behind Aditya L-1 mission?

As the Aditya L-1 traverses its way towards the L-1 (Lagrange Point 1), the name of its female mission director, 59-year-old Nigar Shaji, is also doing the rounds. Shaji is the brilliant scientist who has been steering the mission throughout its journey so far. 

Hailing from Sengottai in Tamil Nadu, Shaji was born to Sheikh Meeran, a farmer, and Saitoon Biwi, a homemaker. From the very beginning Shaji was curious and always wanted to learn new things which later helped her as a space scientist at the ISRO. 

As the project director, she brilliantly executed the Aditya L-1 mission. 

Shaji had her preliminary education at the SRM Girls School in Sengottai and later pursued her engineering degree in electronics and communications at Madurai Kamaraj University. She furthered her education with a Master’s in Electronics and Communications from BIT, Ranchi. 

Shaji began her career in the ISRO in 1987 when she joined the Satish Dhawan Space Center (SHAAR). She later worked in different roles at the U.R. Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru, before becoming the mission director of Aditya-L1mission. 

Shaji had played a major role in the successful launch of the Aditya L-1 mission on September 2, 2023, aboard the PSLV-C57 rocket. The mission is aimed to profoundly enhance our understanding of the Sun, including its outermost layer, the corona. The Aditya L-1 mission’s duration is estimated to be approximately 5.2 years, offering an extended period for solar research. 

Shaji has also worked on different other projects before the Aditya L-1 mission. She has actively worked on the design and development of Indian remote sensing, communication, and interplanetary satellites. She also served as the associate project director for the Indian remote sensing satellite Resourcesat-2A. 

Shaji has always emphasized the favorable environment for women scientists at the ISRO. where recognition is based on merit and abilities rather than gender. 

The primary scientific goal of the Aditya L-1 mission is to unravel the secrets of the Sun’s influence on space weather dynamics and the Earth’s climate by observing solar phenomena in real-time. The results derived from the observations will help us more precisely forecast space weather and offer solutions for reducing their potential effects on space missions and technologies on Earth. 

Environmental conditions in space have the potential to impact satellites, communication networks and power grids on the Earth.