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Kalpana Chawla’s death anniversary: Remembering the first Indian woman to fly to space

It is marked as 18th death anniversary on February 1, 2021 of all seven heroes who lost their lives for a space mission who lived their dream through their work.

Kalpana Chawla’s Death anniversary marked her death anniversary on February 1, the first Indian woman to travel to space. 

She was one among the seven astronauts who died on board Columbia’s Space Shuttle until it crumbled into the Earth’s atmosphere while it was re-entry.

Kalpana Chawla’s Death anniversary

Kalpana Chawla
Image: University of Texas

It is marked as 18th death anniversary on February 1, 2021 of all seven heroes who lost their lives for a space mission who lived their dream through their work.

Born in Karnal, Haryana on March 17, 1962, Chawla moved to the U.S. at the age of 20 and earned an Aerospace Engineering Masters degree in two years.  

Chawla’s fascination turned profession 

As a child, aeroplanes and flying intrigued her. She and her father went to the nearest flying clubs and looked at planes. 

Her fascination turned into an interest that’s when she moved to the United States in 1982 after obtaining a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College.

She earned a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1984.

In 1986, Chawla graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with her second Masters and a PhD in aerospace engineering. 

First Indian woman to fly to space

Mission In 2000, as part of the STS-107 crew, first Indian woman to fly to space, Kalpana was chosen for her second flight.  The Congressional Space Medal of Honour, the NASA Space Flight Medal and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal were ceremonially given to Kalpana. 

STS-107 Space Shuttle Image: NASA

On February 1st 2003, the world awaited the arrival of the STS-107 space shuttle, it disappeared in the atmosphere over Texas. A seven-member crew along with the first Indian woman to be in orbit, Kalpana Chawla, was also killed in the incident. 

Kalpana Chawla’s death anniversary is now witnessed across the world, a daughter of India who made the nation proud.

Seven Member Crew

Seven member crew
Image: Nasa

The seven-member crew who lost their lives along with Mission specialist, Kalpana Chawla were: 

  1. Commander: Rick D. Husband, a U.S. Air Force colonel and mechanical engineer, who led a previous shuttle while the first docking with the International Space Station (STS-96).
  2.  Pilot, William C. McCool, a U.S. Navy commander, Payload commander. 
  3. Michael P. Anderson, a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, physicist, and mission specialist who was in charge of the science mission and was on his second mission altogether (his first being STS-89). 
  4.  Payload Specialist, Ilan Ramon, a colonel in the Israeli Air Force and the first Israeli astronaut.
  5. Mission specialist: David M. Brown, a U.S. Navy captain trained as an aviator and flight surgeon. Brown worked on scientific experiments.
  6. Mission specialist: Laurel Blair Salton Clark, a U.S. Navy captain and flight surgeon. Clark worked on biological experiments.

NASA named one of its spacecraft after Kalpana Chawla to honour her work and devotion to her mission.  

Chawla’s mortal ashes were buried and distributed at the Utah Zion National Park (USA), contrary to her last wishes. She is hailed as a hero of the country. 

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