Remembering Kalpana Chawla: Facts About First Indian Origin Woman To Fly Into Space

Kalpana Chawla (file image)

Kalpana Chawla born on March 17, 1962, was an Indian 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 killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

She was a person, who always dreamt of the moon and stars and she did get to live her dream. Her colleagues remember her as a person who lived her life with the highest sense of value and purpose in every aspect. Her life story has inspired millions of women around the world, especially in India, where women still have difficulty in pursuing their dreams.

Here we bring you a few facts about Kalpana Chawla’s life.

  • Kalpana Chawla was born on July 1, 1961, in Karnal India. She grew up in a society where boys were favoured over girls. Her rise in a way defied the social stigma of being a girl with the help of her mother.
  • Her parents gave her the name ‘Monto’, but she decided to choose her own name, ‘Kalpana’. Her name means ‘Idea’ or ‘Imaginations’. Monto became her nickname.
  • She got married to Jean-Pierre Harrison who was a flying instructor and an aviation author in 1983.
  • Before immigrating to the US, Kalpana obtained her aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College before immigrating to the United States. She did her masters from the University of Texas and completed her PhD in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado in 1988.
  • Kalpana Chawla was also certified with a commercial pilot license for seaplanes, multi-engine airplane, and glider. She also became a certified flight Instructor for gliders and airplanes.

  • Kalpana Chawla flew her first space shuttle mission in 1997 in the space shuttle Columbia. She flew as a mission specialist and a primary robotic arm operator.
  • She was selected for a second voyage again as a mission specialist, but the mission was delayed several times. It was finally launched in 2003. Over the course of 16 days, the crew completed over 80 experiments.
  • On February 1st, 2003 she was killed along with 7 crew members when their space shuttle upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere disintegrated over Texas.
  • Other astronauts who were killed in the disaster were; Pilot William C. McCool, Payload Commander Michael P. Anderson, llan Ramon, David M. Brown, Laurel B. Clark and Rick D. Husband.

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