Kalpana Chawala was an Indo-American astronaut and the first woman of Indian origin in space. She was born on March 17, 1962 in Karnal and was the youngest amongst three siblings, two elder sisters and a brother.
She did her schooling from the Tagore Public School, karnal and later enrolled into Punjab Engineering College to complete her Aeronautical Engineering Degree in 1982. She was the first woman to study aeronautical engineering in her batch. In the same year, she moved to the US and got married to Jean-Pierre Harrison, her flying instructor and an aviation author in 1983. Further, she obtained a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1984. 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 with licence to fly sea planes and multi engine planes. In 1988, she began working at the NASA Ames Research Center where she did Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) research on Vertical/Short Take off and Landing concepts. Becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in April 1991, Chawla applied for the NASA Astronaut Corps. In 1993, she joined Overset Methods, Inc. as Vice President and Research Scientist specializing in simulation of moving multiple body problems. She joined the Corps in March 1995 and was selected for her first flight in 1996. She served in various roles including as the Vice President of Overset Methods, Inc at NASA Research Centre. In 2000, she was again assigned on her second flight mission.
Her first space mission began on November 19, 1997, as part of the six-astronaut crew and traveled 10.67 million km, as many as 252 times around the Earth. By this she also became the first Indian women and the second Indian after Rakesh Sharma to travel to space. In 2000, she was selected for her second flight as part of the crew. This mission was repeatedly delayed due to scheduling conflicts and technical problems and was finally resumed on On January 16, 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 killing all the seven crew members.
She has an asteroid and a satellite named after her. A hill in the Columbia Hills on Mars is named after her as Chawla Hill. Many institutes where she studied, give medals and scholarships named after her. She was also awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, NASA Space Flight Medal and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.
A Life worth living. She not only chased her dreams, but made them happen too. An inspiration for many, she will always be remembered, not only in India but across the globe.
Content Reference: Wikipedia