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Kalpana Chawla

Kalpana Chawla
  • Born in Karnal, India, on July 1, 1961, Chawla who was the youngest of four children, went on to become the second Indian person to fly in space after astronaut Rakesh Sharma.
  • As a child, Kalpana liked to draw pictures of airplanes. Kalpana, born in a conservative society, broke several traditions to become the first Indian-born woman Astronaut in space.
  • She was the daughter of Banarasi lal Chawla who was a self taught engineer after he migrated from pakistan and Sanyjothi Chawla.
  • Kalpana was called Monto during her childhood.She was very much fascinated with stars and universe. She graduated from Tagore School, Karnal, India, in 1976.
  • She draw the Red planet(Mars) in the weekly magazine of science and decided to pursue a career in field of aerospace.
  • After getting a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh.
  • She moved to the United States in 1982 where she obtained a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1984.
  • Chawla went on to earn a second Masters in 1986 and a PhD in aerospace engineering in 1988 from the University of Colorado Boulder.
  • In 1988, she began working at NASA, where she did computational fluid dynamics (CFD).In 1993, she joined Overset Methods, Inc. as Vice President and Research Scientist specializing in simulation of moving multiple body problems.
  • Chawla held a Certificated Flight Instructor rating for airplanes, gliders and Commercial Pilot licenses for single and multi-engine airplanes, seaplanes and gliders.
  • After becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in April 1991, Chawla applied for the NASA Astronaut Corps. She joined the corps in March 1995 and was selected for her first flight in 1996.
  • Her first space mission began on May 2, 1997, as part of the six-astronaut crew that flew the Space Shuttle Columbia flight STS-87. Chawla was the first Indian woman to fly in space.
  • On her first mission, Chawla traveled over 10.4 million miles in 252 orbits of the earth, logging more than 372 hours (15 Days and 12 Hours) in space.
  • In 2000, Chawla was selected for her second flight as part of the crew of STS-107. This mission was repeatedly delayed due to scheduling conflicts and technical problems such as the July 2002 discovery of cracks in the shuttle engine flow liners.
  • On January 16, 2003, Chawla finally returned to space aboard Space Shuttle Columbia on the ill-fated STS-107 mission. The crew performed nearly 80 experiments studying earth and space science, advanced technology development, and astronaut health and safety.
  • During the launch of STS-107, Columbia’s 28th mission, a piece of foam insulation broke off from the Space Shuttle external tank and struck the left wing of the orbiter.
  • Previous shuttle launches had seen minor damage from foam shedding, but some engineers suspected that the damage to Columbia was more serious.
  • When Columbia re-entered the atmosphere of Earth, the damage allowed hot atmospheric gases to penetrate and destroy the internal wing structure, which caused the spacecraft to become unstable and break apart.
  • Chawla died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster which occurred on February 1, 2003; she was killed, along with the other six crew members, when the Columbia disintegrated over Texas during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, shortly before it was scheduled to conclude its 28th mission, STS-107.
  • Chawla’s remains were identified along with the rest of the crew members and were cremated and scattered at National Park in Utah in accordance with her wishes.
  • After the disaster, Space Shuttle flight operations were suspended for more than two years, similar to the aftermath of the Challenger disaster.
  • Construction of the International Space Station (ISS) was put on hold; the station relied entirely on the Russian Roscosmos State Corporation for resupply for 29 months until Shuttle flights resumed with STS-114 and 41 months for crew rotation
  • In honour of the deceased braveheart, the then Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihar Vajpayee, renamed the satellite ‘MetSat-1’ to ‘Kalpana-1’.
  • Even the USA did not move away from acknowledging the efforts of Chawla. As a result, the 74th Street in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City was renamed to ‘Kalpana Chawla street’.
  • NASA has even dedicated a supercomputer to Kalpana.The Haryana state government has set up a medical college and hospital in Karnal worth INR 650 crore in her honour.
  • In 1960, he suffered a heart attack. He was treated by top doctors in India, including his friend Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, the then Chief Minister of West Bengal.
  • His health started deteriorating and he died on 7 March 1961 at the age of 74, from a cerebral stroke. At that time he was still in office as the Home Minister of India.