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Kalpana Chawla – The first Indian woman origin astronaut in space

Kalpana Chawla was an Indian born American astronaut. Kalpana was the first Indian woman to go to space. She is one of those Indians in whose honor so many streets, Universities & institutions were built. Kalpana Chawla or in short KC is regarded as a national hero in India.

As her name represents, Kalpana was a women who made all her imaginations come true. She was always fascinated by aero planes and flying which made her visit flying clubs. She got to ride in the Pushpak, a monoplane & a glider in the flying club at a very young age.

Kalpana Chawla completed her Bachelor of Engineering degree in 1976 in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College, India. After that she moved to United States in 1982 and obtained an MS degree in 1984 in Aero Space Engineering from University of Texas at Arlington. Chawla then earned her second Master’s degree in 1986 and a PhD in Aerospace engineering in 1988 from University of Colorado Boulder. Chawla started her career in 1988 at NASA Ames Research Center where she did computational fluid dynamics (CFD) research on Vertical and /or Short Take -Off and Landing (V/STOL) concepts. In 1993, she joined Overset Methods, Inc. as Vice President and Research Scientist specializing in simulation of moving multiple body problems. Chawla held a Certificated Flight Instructor rating for airplanes, gliders and Commercial Pilot licenses for single and multi-engine airplanes, seaplanes and gliders. After becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in April 1991, Chawla applied for the NASA Astronaut Corps. She joined the corps in March 1995 and was selected for her first flight in 1996. Most of her research work is put in technical journals & conference papers.She first flew on Space Shuttle Columbia flight STS-87 in 1997 as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator. In this first space mission Chawla travelled over 10.4million miles (16737177.6 km) in 252 orbits of earth.

Chawla’s second space mission was when she flew as a crew member for Space Shuttle Columbia STS- 107 and conducted nearly 80 experiments studying Earth & space Science, advanced technology development, astronaut health and safety. It was the launch of Columbia’s 28th mission in which a piece of foam insulation broke off the shuttle & stuck to the left wing of the orbiter resulting in catastrophic incident and she became a memory for many.

Awards& Honors:

  • Kalpana Chawla was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
  • Asteroid 51826 Kalpanachawla, one of seven named after the Columbia’s crew.
  • The first satellite of the series, “MetSat-1”, launched by India on September 12, 2002 was renamed “Kalpana-1”.
  • NASA has dedicated a supercomputer to Chawla.
  • The Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, named the Kalpana Chawla Space Technology Cell in her honor.
  • The Kalpana Chawla Outstanding Recent Alumni Award at the University of Colorado, given since 1983, was renamed after Chawla.
  • The Kalpana Chawla Award was instituted by the Government of Karnataka in 2004 to recognize young women scientists. And many more.


“You are just your intelligence.”

“The journey matters as much as the goal.”

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