Kalpana Chawla 1st February 2003: Indian-American Astronaut Died – Full Biography, History, Education, Achievement

Kalpana Chawla 1st February 2003: Indian-American Astronaut Died – Full Biography, History, Education, Achievement, Kalpana Chawla Life, Kalpana Chawla Story, Kalpana Chawla Essay, Kalpana Chawla Sayings

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Who Was Kalpana Chawla

Kalpana Chawla Born in Karnal, India. Died on February 1, 2003, over the southern United States when Space Shuttle Columbia and the crew perished during entry, 16 minutes prior to scheduled landing. She is survived by her husband. Kalpana Chawla enjoyed flying, hiking, backpacking, and reading. She 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 enjoyed flying aerobatics and tail-wheel airplanes.

Kalpana Chawla 1st February 2003: Indian-American Astronaut Died - Full Biography, History, Education, Achievement

Kalpana Chawla 1st February 2003

Kalpana Chawla Education

Graduated from Tagore School, Karnal, India, in 1976. Bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College, India, 1982. Master of science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas, 1984. Doctorate of philosophy in aerospace engineering from University of Colorado, 1988.

Kalpana Chawla Awards

Posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, the NASA Space Flight Medal, and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.

Kalpana Chawla Experience

In 1988, Kalpana Chawla started work at NASA Ames Research Center in the area of powered-lift computational fluid dynamics. Her research concentrated on simulation of complex air flows encountered around aircraft such as the Harrier in “ground-effect.” Following completion of this project, she supported research in mapping of flow solvers to parallel computers and testing of these solvers by carrying out powered lift computations. Kalpana Chawla History

In 1993 Kalpana Chawla joined Overset Methods Inc., Los Altos, California, as Vice President and Research Scientist to form a team with other researchers specializing in simulation of moving multiple body problems. She was responsible for the development and implementation of efficient techniques to perform aerodynamic optimization. Results of various projects that Kalpana Chawla participated in are documented in technical conference papers and journals.

Kalpana Chawla NASA Experience

Selected by NASA in December 1994, Kalpana Chawla reported to the Johnson Space Center in March 1995 as an astronaut candidate in the 15th Group of Astronauts. After completing a year of training and evaluation, she was assigned as crew representative to work technical issues for the Astronaut Office EVA/Robotics and Computer Branches.

Her assignments included work on the development of Robotic Situational Awareness Displays and testing space shuttle control software in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory. Kalpana Chawla History

In November 1996, Kalpana Chawla was assigned as mission specialist and prime robotic arm operator on STS-87. In January 1998, she was assigned as crew representative for shuttle and station flight crew equipment, and subsequently served as lead for Astronaut Offices Crew Systems and Habitability section. She flew on STS-87 (1997) and STS-107 (2003), logging 30 days, 14 hours and 54 minutes in space.

Kalpana Chawla Space Flight Experience

STS-87 Columbia (November 19 to December 5, 1997). STS-87 was the fourth U.S Microgravity Payload flight and focused on experiments designed to study how the weightless environment of space affects various physical processes, and on observations of the Sun’s outer atmospheric layers.

Two members of the crew performed an EVA (spacewalk) which featured the manual capture of a Spartan satellite, in addition to testing EVA tools and procedures for future Space Station assembly. STS-87 made 252 orbits of the Earth, traveling 6.5 million miles in 376 hours and 34 minutes. Kalpana Chawla History

STS-107 Columbia (January 16 to February 1, 2003). The 16-day flight was a dedicated science and research mission. Working 24 hours a day, in two alternating shifts, the crew successfully conducted approximately 80 experiments. The STS-107 mission ended abruptly on February 1, 2003, when Space Shuttle Columbia and the crew perished during entry, 16 minutes prior to scheduled landing.

Kalpana Chawla Famous Sayings

“On one of the night passes, I dimmed the lights in the flight deck and saw the stars. When you look at the stars and the galaxy, you feel that you are not just from any particular piece of land, but from the solar system,” she had said after her first flight.


“The path from dreams to reality does exist. May you have the vision to find it, the courage to get onto it and perseverance to follow it.”


“Drinking tea, eating cookies and checking email on a spaceship with a night sky. That’s worth a life.”  – Kalpana Chawla


“When you look at the stars and the galaxy, you feel that you are not just from any particular piece of land, but from the solar system.”


Facts To Know About Kalpana Chawla

Kalpana Chawla, an Indian-American astronaut and the first Indian woman in space, was one of the seven astronauts who lost their lives in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster on February 1, 2003. A role model for many young women in India and around the world, Kalpana will always be remembered for her incredible journey from Karnal, where she was born, to NASA, where she fulfilled her dream of reaching the starts. Kalpana Chawla History

1. Kalpana Chawla completed her early education in Punjab.

After finishing school from Karnal, Kalpana pursued a course in aeronautical engineering at Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh. She moved to the United States in 1982 and obtained a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas. She then earned a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado.

2. She became a naturalized US citizen in April 1991 and applied for the NASA Astronaut Corps.

Kalpana began working at the NASA Ames Research Center in 1988 and joined the Corps in March 1995 after becoming a naturalized US citizen.

3. In 1997, she became the first Indian-born woman and the second Indian person to fly in space.

Her first flight was on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997 as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator. The mission began on November 19, 1997, and Kalpana was a part of a six-astronaut crew.

4. Her second flight was also her last.

In 2000, Kalpana was selected for her second flight as a part of the crew of STS-107. The mission got repeatedly delayed and was finally launched in 2003.

On February 1, 2003, the space shuttle disintegrated over Texas while trying to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Over the course of the 16-day flight, the crew completed more than 80 experiments. She was posthumously honored with the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, NASA Space Flight Medal, and NASA Distinguished Service Medal.

Kalpana Chawla logged 30 days, 14 hours, and 54 minutes in space over the course of her two missions.

Class Incident Of Kalpana Chawla

During a mathematics class, Kalpana’s teacher was explaining the concept of the null set (empty set in algebra). To give an example, she said that a set of Indian women astronauts was a classic example of the null set as till date no Indian woman had become an astronaut.

To everybody’s surprise, Kalpana quipped, “Who knows, Ma’am, one day this set may not be empty!” At that time, no one in the classroom could imagine, let alone know, that the girl who had spoken these lines would herself go on to fill the set! Kalpana Chawla History

Kalpana Chawla Interview Before Columbia Mission

In an interview she gave before the Columbia mission, Kalpana recalled how she and her brother would be on their bicycles, trying to see where the airplanes were headed. She said: “We’d ask my dad if we could get a ride in one of those planes. And he did get us a ride on the Pushpak and a glider.

I think that’s really my closest link to aerospace engineering. Also, growing up, we knew of J.R.D. Tata, who flew some of the first mail flights in India, one of which now hangs in an aerodrome out there. Seeing this airplane and just knowing what this person has done during those years definitely captivated my imagination.” Kalpana Chawla History

Essay On Kalpana Chawla

On February 1, 2003, seven NASA astronauts perished over Texas as Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107 disintegrated while re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. One of those killed in the disaster was Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian-origin woman in space. Kalpana Chawla Essay

A role model for countless Indian women, Kalpana was an ordinary girl from Karnal whose lofty dreams and indomitable courage took her to space. Here’s the little-known story of her childhood in India. Kalpana Chawla Essay

Originally from Multan district of West Punjab (now Pakistan), Kalpana’s parents came to Karnal in Haryana during partition. Her father Banarasi Lal Chawla took up several petty jobs (working as a street hawker, a cloth seller, and even a metal fabricator) to provide for his family. He eventually set up a tyre manufacturing business while his wife Sanyogita managed the household. Kalpana Chawla History

Born on March 17, 1962, Kalpana grew up in an environment where hard work was encouraged. The youngest of four siblings, Kalpana was a precocious child. Her natural curiosity, independent nature, and delight in discovering how things worked were encouraged by her mother, a supportive and liberal woman who ensured that all her daughters went to school at a time when education was considered an unnecessary luxury for girls. Kalpana Chawla Essay

A confident, outgoing girl, Kalpana even selected her own name. It so happened that Kalpana had not been formally named at a proper ceremony and was called by her nickname “Monto” at home. During her admission to a nearby school, Tagore Bal Niketan, the principal asked the student’s name. Kalpana Chawla History

Kalpana’s aunt replied that they had three names in mind – Kalpana, Jyotsna, and Sunaina – but they hadn’t decided yet. So the principal asked the little girl which name she liked best. And she replied firmly, “Kalpana. Because it means imagination.”

Just like the name she chose, Kalpana was a highly creative and imaginative child. On sultry summer days, while her family slept on the roof of their small house, the little girl would stay awake for hours to watch the twinkling stars in the night sky. Such was her fascination with stars that once when her classmates built a geographical map of India on the floor of their classroom, she covered the ceiling completely with stars – little sparkling dots on black chart paper! Kalpana Chawla Essay

Another thing that caught young Kalpana’s fancy were aeroplanes. Back then, Karnal was one of the few Indian towns with a flying club called Karnal Aviation Club. As her house was just a few kilometers away from the club, she would often clamber up to the roof and watch them go roaring over her head, waving her hand at the pilot if the plane flew low over the house. Kalpana Chawla History

In school, while her friends drew mountains, forests and rivers on being asked to draw scenery, Kalpana would draw colorful aeroplanes flying amidst clouds. She also loved making airplane models in her craft classes. One of Kalpana’s school teachers remembers the question the inquisitive and sensitive girl had once asked her: “How can people be divided into classes, sects, and religions when they all look alike from the sky?” Kalpana Chawla Essay

Hard-working and focused, Kalpana was a good student who enjoyed subjects like English, Hindi, and Geography. However, her favorite subject was science. Other than dancing, she also enjoyed cycling, running and playing badminton. A complete tomboy, she kept her hair short, never put on any make-up and rarely paid attention to fashion. During her elder sister’s marriage, she insisted on wearing the same dress for three days, saying that it was wasteful and unnecessary to do otherwise!

After her class 10 board examinations, she got admission in DAV college for her higher studies. It was here that an interesting (almost prescient) incident took place. Kalpana Chawla Essay

After completing her class 12 board exams with flying colors, Kalpana decided to pursue her dream of an engineering career. Her father was not in favor of Kalpana doing engineering as he believed that it was not a suitable career option for girls. He advised her to become a doctor or a school teacher but Kalpana was determined to become a flight engineer and for that, an engineering degree was essential. Kalpana Chawla History

Kalpana had her mother’s unconditional support and her father finally gave in when he realized that her mind was made up. So Kalpana left for Chandigarh where she took admission in Punjab Engineering College. During counseling for the selection of various engineering courses, she chose aeronautical engineering, the only girl to do so. Kalpana Chawla Essay

The surprised counselors tried their best to dissuade her from joining aeronautical engineering as it had limited job opportunities in the country but Kalpana refused to budge. When they asked her what was her second option, she replied that she had none. Kalpana Chawla Essay

Kalpana Chawla Determination Story

She was determined to become a flight engineer, and nothing on earth could convince her to choose another stream.

In college, Kalpana put her heart and soul into her studies. As there was no girl’s hostel, she lived alone in a tiny room over a garage, cycling to college every day. In her free time, she devoted herself to learning karate (she became a black belt) and reading books by her favorite authors (Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Ayn Rand, Oriana Fallaci, and Richard Bach).

She enjoyed listening to classic rock, especially of the 1970s British band Deep Purple, and Sufi music (Columbia’s debris included CDs of Abida Parveen, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ravi Shankar, and Hariprasad Chaurasia). Kalpana also loved collecting magazines and books on aviation and would read them from cover to cover. She became a student editor at her college magazine and the joint secretary of the college’s Aero Club and Astro Society.

Always enthusiastic about working on new projects, she surprised her professors and seniors by presenting a paper on ‘Time-Lapse in Space’ (a topic that dealt with Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity) at the college’s annual conference in her first year itself! Kalpana Chawla History

Kalpana Chawla Academic Achievements

In 1982, Kalpana secured the third rank in her batch to become the first woman aeronautical engineer to pass out from her college. This was, however, just a stepping stone to much greater heights that she would achieve in the years ahead.

A good academic record and active involvement in the PEC’s Aero and Astro Society assured Kalpana easy admission into the Master’s course in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Texas in the USA. She had a tough time persuading her family to allow her to go abroad for higher studies and as a result, she joined the session several months late.

In 1988, Kalpana completed her doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder. The same year she began working at NASA’s Ames Research Center, working on power-lift computational fluid dynamics in the same year.

Despite her busy schedule, she kept in touch with her school and college in India. Thanks to her efforts, every year two students from Tagore Bal Niketan were given the opportunity to visit NASA. The students would stay with their ‘Kalpana didi’ who would make Indian meals especially for them. Kalpana Chawla History

In December 1994, Kalpana Chawla reported to the Johnson Space Center in March 1995 as an astronaut candidate in the 15th Group of Astronauts. The rest, as they say, is history. In November 1996, she was assigned as mission specialist and prime robotic arm operator on space shuttle STS-87 (November 19 to December 5, 1997).

As part of her first mission, Kalpana traveled 6.5 million miles in 252 orbits of the Earth and logged 376 hours and 34 minutes in space, becoming the first Indian-origin woman to get to space. Less than five years later, she was cleared by NASA to fly aboard Columbia for a second time.

Kalpana Chawla Love Life

It was during this time that Kalpana met and fell in love with Jean Pierre Harrison, a flying instructor, and an aviation author. She married him in 1983 and it was from him that she learned how to fly a plane – Kalpana was licensed to fly single and multi-engine land aeroplanes, single-engine seaplanes and was also a certified flight instructor.

Kalpana Chawla Last Email

In her last email to the students of Punjab Engineering College, Kalpana wrote: “The path from dreams to success does exist. May you have the vision to find it, the courage to get onto it, and the perseverance to follow it.”


Full Story Of Kalpana Chawla

Kalpana Chawla was an American astronaut and the first woman of Indian origin in space. She first flew on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997 as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator. In 2003, Chawla was one of the seven crew members who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster when the craft disintegrated during its re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Chawla was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and several streets, universities, and institutions have been named in her honor.

Chawla was born on 17 March 1962, but her official date of birth was altered to 1 July 1961 to allow her to become eligible for the matriculation exam. As a child, Kalpana liked to draw pictures of airplanes. 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 Ph.D. in aerospace engineering in 1988 from the University of Colorado Boulder. Kalpana Chawla History

Her first space mission began on November 19, 1997, as part of the six-astronaut crew that flew the Space Shuttle Columbia flight STS-87. Chawla was the first Indian-born woman and the second Indian person to fly in space, following astronaut Rakesh Sharma who flew in 1984 on the Soyuz T-11. She spoke the following words while traveling in the weightlessness of space, “You are just your intelligence”.

On her first mission, Chawla traveled over 10.4 million miles (16737177.6 KM) in 252 orbits of the earth, logging more than 372 hours (15 Days and 12 Hours) in space. During STS-87, she was responsible for deploying the Spartan satellite which malfunctioned, necessitating a spacewalk by Winston Scott and Takao Doi to capture the satellite.

A five-month NASA investigation fully exonerated Chawla by identifying errors in software interfaces and the defined procedures of flight crew and ground control. After the completion of STS-87 post-flight activities, Chawla was assigned to technical positions in the astronaut office to work on the space station.

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. NASA managers limited the investigation, reasoning that the crew could not have fixed the problem if it had been confirmed. 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.

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. Kalpana Chawla History

Kalpana Chawla Life Story

It’s been years since her passing, but Indo-American astronaut, Kalpana Chawla continues to be an inspirational force for youth all-over, especially girls. Born in Karnal-Punjab, Kalpana overcame all odds and fulfilled her dream of reaching for the stars. On her death anniversary today, we share a few details about Chawla’s incredible journey. Kalpana Chawla Story

Kalpana Chawla Early life

Kalpana was born on March 17, 1962, in Karnal, Haryana. Born into a middle-class family, she completed her schooling from Tagore Baal Niketan Senior Secondary School, Karnal and her B.Tech in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College at Chandigarh, India in 1982. Kalpana Chawla Story

Kalpana Chawla Life in the US

To fulfill her desire of becoming an astronaut, Kalpana aimed to join NASA and moved to the United States in 1982. She obtained a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1984 and a second Master’s in 1986. She then earned a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Kalpana Chawla Story

Kalpana Chawla Wedding

There’s always time for romance. In 1983, Kalpana tied the knot with Jean-Pierre Harrison, a flying instructor, and an aviation author.

Kalpana Chawla Work at NASA

In 1988, Kalpana’s dream of joining NASA finally came true. She was offered the position of Vice President of Overset Methods, Inc at NASA Research Center and was later assigned to do Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) research on Vertical/Short Takeoff and Landing concepts. Kalpana Chawla Story

Kalpana Chawla Taking Flight

Kalpana was certified with a commercial pilot license for seaplanes, multi-engine aircraft, and glider. She was also a certified flight Instructor for glider and airplanes. Kalpana Chawla Story

Kalpana US Citizenship and continuation at NASA

On acquiring US citizenship in 1991, Kalpana Chawla applied for the NASA Astronaut Corps. She joined the Corps in March 1995 and was selected for her first flight in 1996. Kalpana Chawla Story

Kalpana Chawla First Mission

Kalpana’s first space mission began on November 19, 1997. She was part of the six-astronaut crew that flew the Space Shuttle Columbia flight STS-87. Not only was Chawla the first Indian-born woman to fly in space, but also the second Indian do so. During her first mission, Kalpana traveled over 10.4 million miles in 252 orbits of the earth, logging more than 372 hours in space. Kalpana Chawla Story

Kalpana Chawla Second Mission

In 2000, Kalpana was selected for her second flight as part of the crew of STS-107. However, the 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. Kalpana Chawla Story

On January 16, 2003, Chawla finally returned to space aboard Space Shuttle Columbia on the ill-fated STS-107 mission. Her responsibilities included the microgravity experiments, for which the crew conducted nearly 80 experiments studying earth and space science, advanced technology development, and astronaut health and safety. Kalpana Chawla Story

Kalpana Chawla Death

On February 1, 2003, Kalpana died in space along with seven crew members in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. The tragedy occurred when the Space Shuttle disintegrated over Texas during its re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. Kalpana Chawla Story

Kalpana Chawla Awards and Honors

During the course of her career, Kalpana received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, NASA Space Flight Medal, and NASA Distinguished Service Medal. Following her death, the Prime Minister of India announced that the meteorological series of satellites, MetSat, was to be renamed ‘Kalpana’ in 2003. Kalpana Chawla Story

The first satellite of the series, ‘MetSat-1’, launched by India on September 12, 2002, was renamed ‘Kalpana-1’. Meanwhile, The Kalpana Chawla Award was instituted by the Government of Karnataka in 2004 to recognize young women scientists. NASA, on the other hand, has dedicated a supercomputer to the memory of Kalpana Chawla.

Kalpana Chawla Biography & Columbia Disaster

The tragic loss of the space shuttle Columbia killed seven astronauts. One of those, Kalpana Chawla, was the first Indian-born woman in space.

Born in Karnal, India, on July 1, 1961, Chawla was the youngest of four children. The name Kalpana means “idea” or “imagination.” Her full name is pronounced CULL-puh-na CHAV-la, though she often went by the nickname K.C.

Chawla obtained a degree in aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College before immigrating to the United States and becoming a naturalized citizen in the 1980s. She earned a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado in 1988, having previously obtained her master’s degree from the University of Texas. She began working at NASA’s Ames Research Center the same year, working on power-lift computational fluid dynamics.

In 1994, Chawla was selected as an astronaut candidate. After a year of training, she became a crew representative for the Astronaut Office EVA/Robotics and Computer Branches, where she worked with Robotic Situational Awareness Displays and tested software for the space shuttles.

Chawla’s first opportunity to fly in space came in November 1997, aboard the space shuttle Columbia on flight STS-87. The shuttle made 252 orbits of the Earth in just over two weeks. The shuttle carried a number of experiments and observing tools on its trip, including a Spartan satellite, which Chawla deployed from the shuttle. The satellite, which studied the outer layer of the sun, malfunctioned due to software errors, and two other astronauts from the shuttle had to perform a spacewalk to recapture it.

Columbia Disaster Strikes

In 2000, Chawla was selected for her second voyage into space, serving again as a mission specialist on STS-107. The mission was delayed several times and finally launched in 2003. Over the course of the 16-day flight, the crew completed more than 80 experiments.

On the morning of Feb. 1, 2003, the space shuttle returned to Earth, intending to land at Kennedy Space Center. At launch, a briefcase-sized piece of insulation had broken off and damaged the thermal protection system of the shuttle’s wing, the shield that protects it from heat during re-entry.

As the shuttle passed through the atmosphere, hot gas streaming into the wing caused it to break up. The unstable craft rolled and bucked, pitching the astronauts about. Less than a minute passed before the ship depressurized, killing the crew. The shuttle broke up over Texas and Louisiana before plunging into the ground. The accident was the second major disaster for the space shuttle program, following the 1986 explosion of the shuttle Challenger.

The entire crew of seven was killed. In addition to Chawla, the crew included:

  • Commander Rick D. Husband
  • Pilot William C. McCool
  • Payload Commander Michael P. Anderson
  • Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut
  • Mission Specialists David M. Brown and Laurel B. Clark

Over the course of her two missions, Chawla logged 30 days, 14 hours, and 54 minutes in space. After her first launch, she said, “When you look at the stars and the galaxy, you feel that you are not just from any particular piece of land, but from the solar system.”

The events of Columbia have been officially investigated and reported on to understand what happened and how to prevent the tragedy from re-occurring in future spaceflights. Examples include the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (2003) NASA’s Columbia Crew Survival Investigation Report (released in 2008).

Several documentaries have been produced about the Columbia crew. Some examples include “Astronaut Diaries: Remembering the Columbia Shuttle Crew” (2005), and one that focused on Ilan Ramon, called “Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope” (2013).

The University of Texas dedicated a Kalpana Chawla memorial at the Arlington College of Engineering in 2010. At the time of its opening, the display included a flight suit, photographs, information about Chawla’s life, and a flag that was flown over the Johnson Space Center during a memorial for the Columbia astronauts.

There have been several rumors about films in production concerning Chawla’s life, including a rumor in 2017 that had the actress Priyanka Chopra (known for Baywatch and Quantico, as well as Bollywood films) attached to it. But in a Quora discussion in 2017, Chawla’s husband — Jean-Pierre Harrison — said: “Until I issue a public statement confirming my participation in such a project, take it for granted that I have not signed any agreement nor licensed any rights necessary to produce such a movie.”

Kalpana Chawla Wikipedia

Kalpana Chawla (March 17, 1962 – February 1, 2003) was an American astronaut, engineer and the first female of Indian origin to go to space. She first flew on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997 as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator.

In 2003, Chawla was one of the seven crew members who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster when the aircraft disintegrated during its re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.[4] Chawla was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and several streets, universities, and institutions have been named in her honor.

Kalpana Chawla Early Life Wikipedia

Chawla was born on 17 March 1962 in Karnal, India, but her official date of birth was altered to 1 July 1961 to allow her to become eligible for the matriculation exam. As a child, Kalpana liked to draw pictures of airplanes.

After getting a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College, India, she moved to the United States in 1982 and 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 Ph.D. in aerospace engineering in 1988 from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Kalpana Chawla Career Wikipedia

In 1988, she began working at NASA, where she did computational fluid dynamics (CFD) research on vertical and/or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) concepts. 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.

Kalpana Chawla First Space Mission Wikipedia

Her first space mission began on November 17, 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. She spoke the following words while traveling in the weightlessness of space, “You are just your intelligence.” On her first mission, Chawla traveled over 10.4 million miles (16737177.6 km) in 252 orbits of the earth, logging more than 372 hours (15 Days and 12 Hours) in space.

During STS-87, she was responsible for deploying the Spartan satellite which malfunctioned, necessitating a spacewalk by Winston Scott and Takao Doi to capture the satellite. A five-month NASA investigation fully exonerated Chawla by identifying errors in software interfaces and the defined procedures of flight crew and ground control. After the completion of STS-87 post-flight activities, Chawla was assigned to technical positions in the astronaut office to work on the space station.

Kalpana Chawla Second Space Mission Wikipedia

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, Columbias 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. NASA managers limited the investigation, reasoning that the crew could not have fixed the problem if it had been confirmed. 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.

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.

Kalpana Chawla Death Wikipedia

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. With her two missions in space, Chawla had logged a total of “30 days, 14 hours, and 54 minutes in space”.

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.

Kalpana Chawla Honors and Recognition

  • Asteroid 51826 Kalpana chawla, one of seven named after the Columbias crew.
  • On February 5, 2003, the Prime Minister of India announced that the meteorological series of satellites, MetSat, was to be renamed “Kalpana”. The first satellite of the series, “MetSat-1”, launched by India on September 12, 2002 was renamed “Kalpana-1”.
  • 74th Street in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City has been renamed “Kalpana Chawla Way” in her honor.
  • The Kalpana Chawla Award was instituted by the Government of Karnataka in 2004 to recognize young women scientists.
  • NASA has dedicated a supercomputer to Chawla.
  • One of Florida Institute of Technology’s student apartment complexes, Columbia Village Suites, has halls named after each of the astronauts, including Chawla.
  • The NASA Mars Exploration Rover mission has named seven peaks in a chain of hills, named the Columbia Hills, after each of the seven astronauts lost in the Columbia shuttle disaster. One of them is Chawla Hill, named after Chawla.
  • Steve Morse from the band Deep Purple created the song “Contact Lost” in memory of the Columbia tragedy along with her interest in the band. The song can be found on the album Bananas.
  • Novelist Peter David named a shuttlecraft, the Chawla, after the astronaut in his 2007 Star Trek novel, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Before Dishonor.
  • The Kalpana Chawla ISU Scholarship fund was founded by alumni of the International Space University (ISU) in 2010 to support Indian student participation in international space education programs.
  • The Kalpana Chawla Memorial Scholarship program was instituted by the Indian Students Association (ISA) at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) in 2005 for meritorious graduate students.
  • The Kalpana Chawla Outstanding Recent Alumni Award at the University of Colorado, given since 1983, was renamed after Chawla.
  • The University of Texas at Arlington, where Chawla obtained a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering in 1984, opened a dormitory named Kalpana Chawla Hall in 2004.
    Kalpana Chawla Hall, University of Texas Arlington. In addition, the university dedicated the Kalpana Chawla Memorial on May 3, 2010, in Nedderman Hall, one of the primary buildings in the College of Engineering.
  • The girls’ hostel at Punjab Engineering College is named after Chawla. In addition, an award of INR twenty-five thousand, a medal, and a certificate is instituted for the best student in the Aeronautical Engineering department.
  • The Government of Haryana established the Kalpana Chawla Planetarium in Jyotisar, Kurukshetra.
  • The Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, named the Kalpana Chawla Space Technology Cell in her honor.
  • Delhi Technological University named a girls’ hostel block after Chawla.
  • A military housing development at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, has been named Columbia Colony, and includes a street named Chawla Way.
  • Hostel blocks in Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology, SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Sagar Institute of Research & Technology, VIT University, Samrat Ashok Technological Institute and Pondicherry University have been named after Chawla.[36][37][38]
  • Kalpana Chawla Government Medical College (KCGMC) is a Medical College located in Karnal, Haryana, India named after Chawla.
  • Kalpana Chawla Chowk is a name given/dedicated to a crossroad in Borivli, Mumbai in memory of the astronaut.
  • The Kalpana One Space Settlement is named in her honor. 
  • A block is named as Kalpana Chawla Block in her honor in ABES Engineering college Ghaziabad(Uttar Pradesh) India.
  • Girls hostel’s name after Kalpana Chawla in M.B.M. Engineering College, Jodhpur(Rajasthan), India

Full History Of Kalpana Chawla Life

Born on 17th March 1962 in Karnal, Haryana (now in Punjab) to Banarsi Lal Chawla and Sanjyothi Chawla, she sets the best example for all young women of India who bags the blend of small town and big dreams with them. Kalpana Chawla was one of them who fought hard against various rules set by her society to change her dreams into reality.

Her interest popped out in her early life when she was a small school kid. Let’s see how she traveled her journey from a small town full of limitations to space where infinity is the limit.

Kalpana Chawla Early Life

Kalpana was the youngest among her three siblings of the family who hailed in a small town where getting an education for a girl was a taboo. Following her eldest sister, Kalpana broke up all the family traditions and followed her dreams. She was taken up by her sister to get admission in the nursery school where she named herself as Kalpana.

Kalpana Chawla Childhood Photo, Kalpana Chawla Birth Photo, Kalpana Chawla Early Age

Getting admitted to the school was the first stepping stone towards her success.

She not only got expertise in studies but also wrote poetry, danced run and cycled to participate in varied school activities. In spare times, she used to lay down under the sky in the night to admire the airplanes and stars. Many times she shared her interest with her brother and told him that she wanted to fly.

Once, Kalpana stated that as a child, she never dreamt she would ever reach the frontiers of space. She felt thankful to her parents who allowed her to attend engineering college where she started stepping towards her goals.

Kalpana Chawla School Life

  • Studious Kalpana always ranked among top 5 in her class. Although she was very much interested in English, Hindi, and Geography, Science was her favorite ones. Reason being, her teacher took the pain to make the subject easy for her.

Flourishing her creativity, she completed her school project with classmates under which she covered the classroom floor with Indian geography map and ceiling with black colored newspaper highlighted with stars.

Seeing or talking about planes always elevated her excitement level. Thus, she used to draw sky, stars, and planes, when her other classmates used to draw mountains, rivers and home in extra activities classes.

Kalpana Chawla Father

  • When Kalpana turned eleven, she asked her father to take her to the Club. Her father was an ordinary businessman who sold toffees, soaps, dates, and groundnuts and later became the manufacturer of metal boxes used for storing provisions. With his hard work, he is now a renowned tyre factory owner.

Being a middle-class man who himself never went to such clubs, his father didn’t deny her beloved daughter but took her to the desired place where she enjoyed thrilling joyride abroad a Pushpak. That day, it was her father’s support that she made her discover her first love with flying.

Also, she got inspired by JRD Tata who was the first Indian pilot.

Kalpana Chawla Mother

  • Seeing or talking about planes always elevated her excitement level. Thus, she used to draw sky, stars, and planes, when her other classmates used to draw mountains, rivers and home in extra activities classes.

Despite the fact that Kalpana was not aware of the role of a flight engineer, she used to tell people that she wants to become a flight engineer. The reason being, that she thought that flight engineers design aircraft and she too wanted to do the same.

When Kalpana completed school, she didn’t follow on-going traditions of getting married at an early age. She followed her teacher’s inspiration who used to teach that wasting education is not a good idea, instead, it should be utilized for some good purpose.

However, her mother was a housewife, but another interesting fact was that she belonged to an educated family. According to her mother, Kalpana was different as she used to cut her own hair and never wore ironed clothes. Her mother always pampered Kalpana and fought for her as Kalpana demanded to join the college for higher studies.

With the incredible support of her family, especially mother, she got enrolled at Punjab Engineering College to study aeronautical engineering and earned Bachelor of Science degree. During her bachelor studies, she performed so well and ranked among the toppers due to which the institute offered a job there itself.

Kalpana Chawla Family Decisions & Support

Her journey started, when she refused to join the offered job from her college, but decided to pursue Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas to which she applied.

Since she was a girl of a town where no girl stepped outside the city for higher education, therefore, it was a big challenge for her parents to go against the tradition. Ignoring the on-going trend, they decided and allowed their daughter to pursue her career further.

In 1982, Kalpana moved to the U.S. to join the University of Texas at Arlington, where she performed well and met Jean-Pierre, a flying instructor, and aviation author. A year later after moving to the U.S., she married him in 1983.

Being the native of India, she did not hesitate to marry Jean-Pierre who was a French American. The decision of marrying him became easy as her brother convinced his parents and supported his sister once again.

Kalpana Chawla Way To NASA

She was so determined to become an astronaut such that she completed her Masters successfully in 1984 and earned second Masters degree in 1986.

With the continuous support of her parents, she successfully completed the doctorate in aerospace engineering in 1988 from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

With her excellence, she got a job offer from NASA and thus, she started working for NASA’s Ames Research Center. She also held a certified flight instructor’s license and commercial pilot’s licenses. These licenses were applicable to airplane & glider ratings and single & multiengine land & seaplanes, respectively.

Kalpana Chawla Daughter Of Indian Parents

Akin to other Indian parents who desire to keep their children with them to shower their love and care, Kalpana’s parents never forced her to come back and settle down in India. They kept on motivating and praising her for achievements due to which she made remarkable progress throughout her career.

She saw her dream come true when her first space mission began in 1997. This is when she became the first Indian born woman and second Indian person to fly in space after Rakesh Sharma. Under this mission, she traveled 10.67 million kilometer which is 252 times around the Earth. To complete this distance, she contributed 372 hours in Space. Kalpana Chawla History

Kalpana Chawla Last Flight

In 2000, again she got selected for her second flight which delayed due to a few conflicts and technical faults. This mission got approval for the launch on January 2003, when  Kalpana took her second voyage to space with other six crew members of the mission. Kalpana Chawla History

Unfortunately, the crew of seven members including Kalpana Chawla got killed in Space Shuttle Columbia disaster and we lost her physical body, but not her presence that is still with us in the form of various memorials dedicated to her and incredible achievements. Kalpana Chawla History

Kalpana Chawla An Inspiration

Despite becoming India-American astronaut, she was always proud of her roots as it was her family who supported, helped and motivated her to fulfill all her dreams which she lived for real.

When Kalpana was alive, she used to visit India, her hometown to motivate young girls for following their dreams. She used to push them for getting success in achieving their goals like her.

After she got died in the disaster, not only Indians dedicated various memorials in various forms to pay her tribute, but authorities across the world also introduced many varied memorials in her name. Kalpana Chawla History

India paid a huge contribution by declaring the meteorological series of satellites as Kalpana which was earlier named as MetSat. The first satellite, MetSat-1 was then renamed as Kalpana-1. Not only this, but NASA also dedicated a supercomputer to Chawla.

What We Should Learn From Kalpana Chawla

The entire life of Kalpana Chawla and her parent’s role in making her success in achieving goals can be inspiring.  Her journey can motivate all those parents who still think that being a girl can hinder the path towards success or being a native of small-town can break traditions of the society if sent abroad for higher studies or training.

Inspiring and supporting a child, especially girls can bring out another Kalpana Chawla among Indians. If Kalpana was not sent abroad for her studies and to build her dreams, she wouldn’t have got an identity across the world. Kalpana Chawla History

Her parents are now the proud parents who must be happy to had Kalpana Chawla as their daughter. It was them who allowed her to live her dream, instead of forcing her to get married after schooling or to get back to India.

Kalpana Chawla had died like a hero who is still alive in all of our hearts, parents and young girls who want to fulfill their dreams as Kalpana did. She not only inspired India to bring girls forward but also justified the saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

So, being a parent, never pressurize a daughter to settle down with a family as a wife or a mother following the rituals and traditions. Instead, help her to become what she sees herself in future. Who knows, if your daughter can also become other Kalpana Chawla or legendary who can give identity to herself and you across the world.

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