Remembering Kalpana Chawla on her 58th birth anniversary
Kalpana Chawla is an inspiration for millions of women around the world. Kalpana Chawla, an Indian born American astronaut, was the first woman from India who touched the sky.
Born in Karnal, she did her schooling from Tagore Baal Niketan. She was as an enthusiastic hiker, back-packer and loved reading. After her higher education, she received an aeronautical engineering degree. Later she immigrated to US.
Kalpana held a Certificated Flight Instructor’s license with airplane and glider ratings, Commercial Pilot’s licenses for single- and multi-engine land and seaplanes, and Gliders, and instrument rating for airplanes.
She joined NASA Ames Research Centre in 1988, where she did computational fluid dynamics research on vertical and short take-off and landing (V/STOL) concepts. Chawla’s first space mission began on November 19, 1997, and she was one among the six astronaut crew that flew the Space Shuttle Columbia flight STS-87. Chawla was the first Indian woman to fly in space. On January 16, 2003, Chawla returned to space aboard Space Shuttle Columbia on the STS-107 mission.
On February 1, 2003, the space shuttle Columbia began its descent back to the earth. When the shuttle raced over the Pacific towards the US, it broke apart while entering again the Earth’s atmosphere over Texas and Louisiana that took the life of all seven crew members- Rick D Husband, William C McCool, Michael P Anderson, Ilan Ramon, Kalpana Chawla, David M Brown, and Laurel Blair Salton Clark on board.
After death, she was awarded Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and several universities and institutions have been named in her honour. The then PM of India renamed meteorological series of satellites, MetSat, to ‘Kalpana’ in the year 2003. The late astronaut is renowned as a national hero in India.