Kalpana Chawla Birth Anniversary: Here are lesser-known facts about the first woman of Indian origin to fly to space - Hindustan Times
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Kalpana Chawla Birth Anniversary: Here are lesser-known facts about the first woman of Indian origin to fly to space

Hindustan Times | By
Mar 17, 2020 06:28 PM IST

Kalpana Chawla was the first woman of Indian origin to fly to space. Kalpana graduated from the Tagore School and was good in academics and moved to the United States in 1982 after completing a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College.

Kalpana Chawla was the first woman of Indian origin to fly to space. Born on March 17, 1962, in Karnal, Kalpana became a citizen of the United States in 1991. Ever since she was a child, Kalpana was fascinated by aeroplanes and flying. Such was her love that she used to often go to local flying clubs with her father and watch planes.

Born on March 17, 1962, in Karnal, Kalpana became a citizen of the United States in 1991.(Wikimedia Commons)
Born on March 17, 1962, in Karnal, Kalpana became a citizen of the United States in 1991.(Wikimedia Commons)

Kalpana Chawla who had a lengthy conversation with former Indian Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral from the spaceship during the STS-87 mission aboard Columbia, saw the former PM say, “Kalpana we are proud of you. Each one of us is proud of a person like you who has done such pioneering work. Particularly, the youth and women of India are gaining pride in seeing what you have done in the space. My hearty congratulations.”

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Gujral also asked Kalpana to promise to visit India once she returns to the Earth; however, the meeting never came to being with her spacecraft disintegrating during its re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere on February 1, 2003.

To read Kalpana’s biography, go to the link below:

On her birth anniversary, here are lesser-known facts about the NASA astronaut:

Kalpana Chawla was born on March 17, 1962, but to make her eligible for the matriculation exam her original date of birth was altered to July 1, 1961.

Kalpana graduated from the Tagore School and was good in academics and moved to the United States in 1982 after completing a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College.

Kalpana has two Masters Degrees to her name. She got her first Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1984, followed by the second in 1986.

She earned her PhD in aerospace engineering in 1988 from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Kalpana started working at the NASA Ames Research Centre in the same year. There she did computational fluid dynamics (CFD) research on vertical and/or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) concepts.

Kalpana was assigned as crew representative for shuttle and station flight crew equipment in 1998. She started to serve as the lead for Astronaut Office’s Crew Systems and Habitability section soon afterwards.

On November 19, 1997, Kalpana became the first woman of Indian origin to fly to space as part of the six-astronaut crew that flew the Space Shuttle Columbia flight STS-87.

Kalpana died on February 1, 2003, over southern United States when the Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107 and her crew perished during entry, 16 minutes prior to the scheduled landing.

She was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

There are several streets, universities, institutions and scholarships named in honour of Kalpana Chawla. One of the seven peaks of the Columbia Hills is also named after Kalpana Chawla.

According to Kalpana’s last wishes, her mortal remains were creamed and scattered at Zion National Park in Utah.

NASA has dedicated a supercomputer to Kalpana Chawla.

On February 5, 2003, the then Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced that the meteorological series of satellites, MetSat, was to be renamed “Kalpana”. The first satellite of the series, “MetSat-1”, launched by India on September 12, 2002, was renamed “Kalpana-1”.

Kalpana met her husband Jean-Pierre Harrison on December 2, 1982, and the two got married in December 1983.

Jean-Pierre Harrison wrote the authoritative biography on the astronaut titled, “The Edge of Time”.

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