Kalpana Chawla

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Kalpana Chawla

Kalpana Chawla (July 1 1961February 1 2003), was an astronaut and space shuttle mission specialist. She died aboard STS-107 (Space Shuttle Columbia) when it disintegrated during reentry into the Earth's atmosphere.

Early life

Chawla was born in Karnal, Punjab now Haryana, India. She did her schooling from Tagore Bal Niketan School. Her interest in flight was inspired by J. R. D. Tata, a pioneering Indian pilot.


Kalpana Chawla completed her higher secondary education from Tagore School, Karnal (Haryana) in 1976.

Chawla studied aeronautical engineering at Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh, India in 1982 where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree. Thereafter she moved to the United States to obtain a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington (1984). Chawla earned a second Master of Science degree in 1986 and Ph.D. in aerospace engineering in 1988 from the University of Colorado. Later that same year she began working for NASA Ames Research Center.

Kalpana Chawla became a naturalized United States citizen, and married Jean-Pierre Harrison, a Certificated Flight Instructor and aviation writer.

Chawla held a Certificated Flight Instructor rating for airplanes and gliders and Commercial Pilot licenses for single and multiengine airplanes, seaplanes and gliders.

NASA career

Chawla joined the NASA astronaut corps in March 1995 and was selected for her first flight in 1996. 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 person of Indian origin to fly in space, following cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma who flew in 1984 in a Soviet spacecraft. It must be noted that while Rakesh Sharma represented India, Chawla was an American astronaut who represented the United States. Sharma and Chawla never met despite their common interests.

On her first mission Chawla travelled over 6.5 million miles in 252 orbits of the earth, logging more than 375 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 identified errors in software interfaces and flight crew and ground control procedures. Chawla was fully exonerated and significant changes to procedures and software resulted from the final report.

After the completion of STS-87 post-flight activities, Chawla was assigned to technical positions in the astronaut office, her performance in which was recognized with a special award from her peers. In 2000 she 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 Columbia on the ill-fated STS-107 mission.

Chawla's responsibilities included the SPACEHAB/FREESTAR microgravity experiments, for which the crew conducted nearly 80 experiments studying earth and space science, advanced technology development, and astronaut health and safety.

Chawla's last visit to India was during the 1991 - 1992 new year holiday when she and her husband spent time with her family. For various reasons, Chawla was unfortunately never able to follow up on invitations to visit India after she became an astronaut.

Personal characteristics

Chawla and her husband lived adjacent to Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Chawla was a strict vegetarian. On her mission, she carried a white silk banner as part of a worldwide campaign to honor teachers, as well as nearly two dozen CDs, including ones by Abida Parveen, Yehudi Menuhin, Ravi Shankar, and Deep Purple. She went to her first rock concert, a Deep Purple show, in 2001 with her husband. "Kalpana is not necessarily a rock music aficionado," her husband said of a Deep Purple show, "...but (she) nevertheless characterized the show as a 'spiritual experience.'" Chawla had no interest in religion and did not attend or participate in any such activities - especially after arriving in the United States. She enjoyed birdwatching, backpacking, hiking, flying, and reading.


  • Shortly after her last mission, India renamed its first weather satellite Kalpana-1 in her honor.
  • 74th Street in New York City has been renamed 4th Street Kalpana Chawla Way in her honor.
  • NASA has dedicated a super computer to Kalpana. -- [1] (ndtv)

She died a hero and a role model for many young women, especially in India and particularly those in her hometown of Karnal where her life serves to encourage young people to follow in her footsteps.

Her brother, Sanjay Chawla, remarked "To me, my sister is not dead. She is immortal. Isn't that what a star is? She is a permanent star in the sky. She will always be up there where she belongs."

See also

External links


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