The inspiring story of astronaut Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian woman in space

Explore the remarkable journey of astronaut Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian woman to venture into space, whose legacy continues to inspire generations worldwide.

| Updated on: Aug 24 2023, 10:00 IST
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Kalpana Chawla
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Kalpana Chawla
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Kalpana Chawla was the trailblazing Indian-American astronaut who shattered barriers and inspired generations with her historic journey into space. (Hindustan Times)

Indian-born American astronaut Kalpana Chawla made history by traveling into space. Sadly, on February 1, 2003, she was on the Columbia Space Shuttle, which met with a tragic accident. The accident took the lives of her fellow astronauts including Rick Husband, David M. Brown, William C. McCool, Michael P. Anderson, Ilan Ramon, and Laurel Clark.

Kalpana Chawla was born on March 17, 1962, in Karnal, Haryana. She was a curious child, deeply interested in airplanes and flying. She often went with her father to local flying clubs just to watch planes. She went to school at Tagore Baal Niketan Senior Secondary School in Karnal. Later, she earned a Bachelor of Science in aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College.

A Journey to the Stars

In 1982, she moved to the United States to continue her education. She pursued her master's and doctoral degrees in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington.

After finishing her studies, Chawla worked as a researcher at NASA's Ames Research Center in California. She was part of many important projects. NASA recognized her talent and selected her to become an astronaut in 1994.

Chawla completed her astronaut training in 1995 and was chosen for her first space mission in 1997, called STS-87. Her second and final space journey was STS-107, which began on January 16, 2003. This mission aimed to carry out various experiments in space.

Sadly, on February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere. All seven crew members, including Kalpana Chawla, lost their lives. Her death was a huge loss for India and the world.

She broke barriers for women in science and engineering, and her legacy continues to motivate future generations.

A Beacon of Inspiration

Besides being India's first woman in space, Chawla was also the first woman of Indian origin to travel on the Space Shuttle. Her achievements proved that with determination, anything is possible.

Kalpana Chawla's legacy is one of inspiration and optimism. She demonstrated that hard work and unwavering commitment can make dreams come true. She will forever be remembered as a trailblazer.

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First Published Date: 24 Aug, 10:00 IST