Many young girls of the 21st century are known to nurture the unyielding desire to probe into the mysteries of the universe and actually pursue a career in the field of aerospace technologies. This fascination needs to be given a major boost with the right guidance and increasing access to education so that more and more girls can contribute to the scientific discoveries of India. This is what Dr. Tessy Thomas said when she was presented the award of Woman Pioneer of the Year by the ETPrime Women Leadership Awards May 2023 program. It is for her immeasurable contributions in the field of aeronautical studies and Indian space research, that Tessy Thomas was honoured with this award for woman leadership and also to celebrate her remarkable and innovative ideas and exhibition of resilience.
Lets know more about missile woman of India by a brief exploration of her life’s journey. Renowned among the masses as Agniputri or the Missile Woman of India, Tessy Thomas started her expedition from a very unassuming background from Alapuzzha, a village in Kerala and went on to claim one laurel after another as a groundbreaking Indian scientist and also the first woman scientist to lead an Indian missile project. Ever since Tessy Thomas joined the Defence Research and Development Organisation in the year 1988 as the project director for the Agni missile projects, Tessy has contributed her expertise in the field of mission designing for the missiles, inertial navigation, trajectory simulation, and so on. With a very rare propensity for exploring the intricacies of missile designing and scientific genius, this DRDO scientist was even appointed as the Adviser to the Defence Minister to work on missile programs after she worked for the Indian Space Research Organisation for around two years. As Tessy continued to design missiles for the Indian Air Force, Army, and Navy in the year 2014, she was awarded for her contribution by including her name in the Aeronautical Society’s Space Pioneer Hall of Fame which was only received by five Indians before her.
What is more surprising is that Tessy Thomas, the missile woman of India, once cherished the ambition of becoming an IAS officer which was soon overshadowed by her tenacious resolution to learn more about missiles. Having had immediacy with the phenomenon of rocket launching due to the Thumba Equatorial Rocket launching station near her house, Tessy has always been intrigued by the art of missile designing and most importantly the subject of aeronautics. The evidence of her unbound intelligence and limitless merit is that in spite of appearing for the UPSC exam to pursue the career of an IAS officer, she selected the program on guided missiles at the Pune Institute of Armament Technology. As her knowledge regarding long-range missiles continued to grow with relentless research and work experience at the Agni programs, her hard work was recognised with the Agni Self-Reliance Award in 2001.
Although there are a lot of women currently in the field of space research and aeronautics, the journey of Tessy Thomas to become the Missile Woman of India is phenomenal, especially because choosing a career in space research is not something that women back then would opt for without any deliberation on its challenges. It was not like Tessy had no other offers to choose from other than a career in aeronautics and space science, in fact, she was offered a very lucrative position by her brother-in-law in a software company which she rejected to pursue her PhD. Making these crucial decisions at different junctures of her life brought Tessy to where she is now. With the illuminated career that Tessy has made for herself, she is one of the brightest stars of India who started off as a scientist working at the Indian Space Research Organization and went on to become the head of the Defence Research Development Organization, the position of which is equivalent to NASA. Nonetheless, Tessy’s brilliance was not just limited to the designing of rockets and missiles. She extended her acumen in electronics to research on different GPS technologies which resulted in establishing her name as one of the first Indian engineers to design radio frequency identification or RFID tags.
Tessy’s notable career has multiple milestones and numerous achievements to list but what makes her a role model for many young Indian women is her inexhaustible focus and passion for science and how she made the right choices at different points in her career which brought her to the zenith of her success. Tessy Thomas, the missile woman of India, has never flinched from admitting her love for space technology and the need to involve more women in this field of work, nor has she hesitated from stating that she always wants to be at the forefront of every work she is assigned. Tessy does not like to be called a mere engineer or a missile scientist. In fact, she wants to be known as the epitome of determination and courage who can stand up to any kind of conflicting situation or adversity and brave all of it without letting the focus on her dreams shift for even a second.