Born On: July 1st, 1961
Born In: Karnal in Haryana
Died On: February 1st, 2003
Career: Astronaut, Aeronautic Engineer
Kalpana Chawla was India's first women aeronautical engineer to travel into space. She has been a role model to several women in terms of achievement and contributions to the field of aeronautics. Growing up in a male dominant society, Kalpana never let her dreams of flying be affected in any way. In fact she was the first woman to study aeronautical engineering in her batch. Some of her memorials are: the Kalpana Chawla Award given by the Karnataka Government, a dormitory named after her in the University of Texas at Arlington from where she did her Masters and a planetarium in Haryana. This sheds light on her meritorious and outstanding achievements. Even though her death was sudden and unfortunate, she left a mark in the nation and will be remembered forever. Read the following sections to know more about this dynamic personality, her career and life.
Kalpana Chawla was born on the 1st of July, 1961 in a small town in Karnal located in the state of Haryana. Her parents, Banarasi Lal Chawla and Sanjyothi had two other daughters named Sunita and Deepa and a son named Sanjay. Kalpana was the youngest in her family and hence, she was the most pampered too.
She got educated at the Tagore Public School and later enrolled into Punjab Engineering College to complete her Aeronautical Engineering Degree in 1982. In the same year, she moved to the US. She got married to Jean-Pierre Harrison in 1983. He was her flying instructor and an aviation author.
In 1984, she completed her M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas in Arlington. In 1988, she obtained a Ph.D. in the same subject from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Kalpana Chawla was a certified flight instructor who rated aircrafts and gilders. She also held a commercial pilot license for single and multi-engine airplanes, hydroplanes and gliders. Kalpana was a licensed Technician Class Amateur Radio person certified by the Federal Communication commission. Owing to her multiple degrees in Aerospace, she got a job in NASA as the Vice President of the Overset Methods, Inc. in 1993. She was extensively involved in computational fluid dynamics research on Vertical/Short Takeoff and Landing. It was not until 1995 that she became a part of the NASA 'Astronaut Corps'.
Three years later, she was selected for her first mission i.e. to travel around the Earth in a space shuttle. This operation consisted of six other members. Kalpana was responsible for organizing the Spartan Satellite but she was unsuccessful in her role due to its malfunction. It was found that due to technical errors, the satellite defied control of ground staff and flight crew members. Following this, she was vindicated.
On the other hand, Kalpana Chawla created history for being the first Indian woman to travel in a space shuttle. She had the privilege of journeying as far as 10.4million km. This approximately adds up to 252 times around the Earth's orbit that comprised of 372 hours in space.
After the Spartan Satellite incident, she was given a technical position. Her excellent work was recognized and awarded. In 2000, she was again assigned on her second flight mission as a part of Flight STS-107. Kalpana's responsibility included microgravity experiments. Along with her team members, she undertook a detailed research on advanced technology development, astronaut health & safety, the study of Earth and space science. During the course of this mission, there were several mishaps and cracks were detected in the shuttle engine flow liners. This delayed the project until 2003.
It was on February 1st 2003 that the space shuttle, STS-107, collapsed over the Texas region when it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. This unfortunate event ended the lives of seven crew members including Kalpana.
Achievements and Accolades
Despite living in America, Kalpana Chawla was considered the pride of India. She was the first Indian woman to travel in a space shuttle for 372 hours and complete 252 rotations around the Earth's atmosphere. Her achievements have been an inspiration to many others in India and abroad. There are many science institutions named after her.
During her lifetime, Kalpana Chawla was awarded with three awards namely the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, NASA Space Flight Medal and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.
1961: She was born on 1st July in Karnal.
1982: She moved to the United States to complete her education.
1983: Married a flying instructor and aviation author, Jean-Pierre Harrison.
1984: got an M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas in Arlington.
1988: She received a Ph.D. in the same field and began to work for NASA.
1993: Joined Overset Methods Inc. as Vice President and Research Scientist.
1995: She joined the NASA 'Astronaut Corps.
1996: Kalpana was the mission specialist for prime robotic arm operator on STS-87.
1997: Her first mission on Flight STS-87 took place.
2000: Assigned on her second mission as part of Flight STS-107.
2003: Chawla got a second chance for the mission on Flight STS-107. On February 1st, she died when the space shuttle broke down.