Remembering the fearless Indian-American astronaut, 13 years after her tragic death.
Image Source: Woman Pilot
Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian woman in space, was an Indian-American astronaut who first flew on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997 as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator. She was one of the seven-member crew of Space Shuttle Columbia that disintegrated over Texas during its re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, shortly before successfully completing its 28th mission on 1st Feb 2003.
Early life and education
She was born on 17th March 1962 in Karnal, Haryana in an average middle-class family. She completed her schooling from Karnal and Bachelor of Engineering degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh in 1982. Later, she moved to Texas and completed her Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1984. In 1986, she earned a second Masters degree and a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering in 1988 from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Image Source: Wikipedia
Here are some lesser known facts about her:
- She was initially named Monto by her parents, but she chose to change her official name to Kalpana (imagination) and kept Monto as her nickname.
- She got married to Jean-Pierre Harrison, a flying instructor, and an aviation author, in 1983.
Although she was exceptionally good at academics, she loved poetry, dancing, running and cycling as well.
- She worked at NASA for some time before becoming an astronaut. She got the position of Vice President of Overset Methods at NASA Research Center.
- She was a certified commercial pilot with licenses to fly seaplanes and multi-engine airplanes.
- After getting her Ph.D., she became a US citizen in 1991 before applying to become a member of NASA Astronaut Corps.
- For her excellent service, she got many awards like Congressional Space Medal of Honor NASA.
- Space Flight Medal and NASA Distinguished Service Medal.
- She is the one and only Indian woman to go to space to date.