Indian-American astronaut and first female to travel to space, Kalpana Chawla, is a role icon for many young women in India and around the world. Kalpana Chawla, born on 17th March 1962, would always be remembered for her incredible and inspiring journey starting from her birth in Karnal to turning up to be an astronaut with NASA.
On 1st February 2003 that is regarded as one of the darkest days in the history of NASA, Kalpana Chawla, in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, lost her life. The space shuttle disintegrated when entering into the Earth’s atmosphere, just 16 minutes before their scheduled landing at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
Below is a look at her journey from Karnal to becoming the first Indian women to travel to space.
The rise of Kalpana Chawla
She was born in Punjab, India in the year 1962. She dreamt of becoming an aerospace engineer by watching the planes from the local flying clubs.
After her graduation from the Tagore School in the year 1976, and completion her bachelor’s degree from the Punjab Engineering College in aeronautical engineering in 1983 Kalpana Chawla attended graduate school at the University of Texas. She completed her Master’s degree in 1984 and went to pursue a doctorate in aerospace engineering at Boulder, Colorado.
Her career at the American Space Agency started in 1988. In 1993 she joined at Overset Methods Inc., Los Altos, California, as Vice President and Research Scientist.
Space journey of Kalpana Chawla
Her initial stint as an astronaut started in 1994. In March 1995, she reported to the Johnson Space Center. STS-87 was her first flight.
She returned to space on 16th January 2003 aboard Columbia. She served there as the mission specialist. Kalpana Chawla along with her six STS-107 crewmates died on 1st February 2003.