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Kalpana Chawla Biography

Biography | 7-14 yrs | Reading Pod

Kalpana Chawla was the first woman of Indian origin to venture into space. She took the glory of Indian women to greater heights with her magnificent achievements.

Birth and Early Life

Kalpana Chawla was born on 17th March, 1962, in Karnal, India. Kalpana obtained her bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College in 1982. Thereafter, she went to the United States and obtained her master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas in 1984. Four years later, she earned a doctorate degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado. Kalpana also had a Certificated Flight Instructor’s license.

NASA Experience

Owing to her outstanding credentials, knowledge and experience, Kalpana was selected to work for the biggest space exploration agency in the world—NASA. Kalpana Chawla started working at NASA in 1988 and her first opportunity to go to space came in November, 1997. During this mission, she stayed in space for 30 days, 14 hours and 54 minutes, fulfilling her long-nurtured dream to see the cosmos up, close and personal.

Second Expedition and Death

In 2000, Kalpana was once again chosen for her second sojourn in space, serving as a space engineer on STS-107, the 113th flight of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. Kalpana set off for her second and final journey into space in the space shuttle Columbia on 16th January, 2003. It was a 16-day flight, during which the crew members completed more than 80 experiments in space.

Columbia was supposed to return to Earth on the morning of 1st February, 2003, and land at Kennedy Space Center. People around the world were waiting for the arrival of the shuttle to warmly receive the astronauts from their ambitious mission. But, destiny had something else in store for those brave hearts that day; the space shuttle unexpectedly malfunctioned and exploded over Texas and Louisiana, killing their entire crew of seven brave astronauts on board, including Kalpana Chawla.

No doubt, Kalpana died a hero’s death and though she is no longer amongst us today, she will continue to inspire the young women in our country. Her life was a live example of the famous proverb: ‘Where there is a will, there is a way.’

5 Interesting Facts about Kalpana Chawla

  1. She was the second Indian to fly into space, after the famous cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma who went into space in 1984.
  2. Kalpana’s interest in flying was inspired by India’s first pilot, J.R.D. Tata.
  3. India has named its first weather satellite ‘Kalpana-1’ in Kalpana Chawla’s honour.
  4. Kalpana was married to a freelance flying instructor, Jean Pierre Harrison.
  5. After Kalpana’s death, her husband visited India and scattered her ashes over the Himalayas so that she could finally rest in eternal