The name, Kalpana Chawla needs no introduction as it is absolutely complete and immortal in itself. Generations after generations would come but the name won’t lose its identity ever. Born on July 01, 1961 in a small town in Karnal located in the state of Haryana, Kalpana Chawla was the First Indian woman to travel in space. She is not only a role model to several females rather she is a constant source of inspiration and motivation for many. Though, her death was extremely unfortunate and sudden, she has touched heart of many and will be remembered forever. She left a mark in the nation and her outstanding achievements have made her immortal.
Even after growing up in a male dominating society, Kalpana did not let her flying dreams die. She did her schooling from Tagore Public School and in the year 1982, she pursued her aeronautical engineering degree from Punjab engineering college. The same year she relocated to United States and married Jean –Pierre Harrison, who was her flying instructor. In 1984, she did M.S. in Aerospace engineering from the University of Texas and earned a doctorate in the year 1988 from the University of Colorado in the same subject.
After completing her Ph.D. Kalpana began working at NASA on power-lift computational fluid dynamics. In the year 1994, she was chosen as an astronaut candidate. It was first time in the year 1997, that the opportunity to fly in space came her way. It was her first mission to travel around Earth in a space shuttle named STS-87. With this she created a history and became the first Indian women to travel in space. She journeyed for 10.4 million Km which mean approximately 252 times around earth’s orbit and 372 hours in space.
In 2000, Kalpana was again assigned her second flight mission and her responsibility included microgravity experiments. The project got delayed repeatedly due to technical problems. There were several mishaps and discovery of cracks in the shuttle engine flow liners. But, on 16th January, 2003 she finally returned back to space aboard space shuttle Columbia as part of the crew of STS-107.
It was on 1st February, 2003 during re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere, the space-shuttle, STS-107 collapsed over Texas region. All the seven crew members including Kalpana unfortunately died before concluding space-shuttle’s 28th mission. Just 16 minutes before landing, the first Indian woman astronaut passed away.
She has been an inspiration to many in India and abroad. She was considered pride of India in spite of living in America. There are various awards and science institutions named after her. With so many achievements and meritorious acts in her name, Kalpana Chawla is Immortal.
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