Kalpana Chawla was the first Indian women astronaut. She held a Certificated Flight Instructor’s licence with airplane and glider ratings, commercial pilot’s license for single and multi-engine land and seaplanes, and gliders, and instrument rating for airplanes. She enjoyed flying aerobatics and tailwheel airplanes.
Kalpana Chawla History -Biography
Essay on History of Kalpana Chawla
Kalpana Chawla was born in Karnal, Haryana on July 1, 1961. Kalpana was the daughter of Banarsi Lal Chawla, a businessman and Sanyogita, a simple housewife. Kalpana’s parents originally came to Karnal from the Multan district of West Punjab, which is now known as Pakistan.
Fascinated by flying, Kalpana Chawla has been a daring child since childhood. Though she decided to become an astronaut only after completing her bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering, she expressed her desire to learn flying when she was barely 13. Her childhood was totally different from other girls. Sketching and painting airplanes were more her forte than dressing up Barbie dolls.
Kalpana completed her Graduation from Tagore School, Karnal, India, in 1976. She received a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering from the Punjab Engineering College, in 1982. A master of science in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas, 1984, Kalpana Chawla completed her Doctorate of philosophy in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado, 1988.
In 1982, she landed in an American university. Kalpana met Jean Pierre Harrison, a freelance-flying instructor. Inspired by Jean Pierre, she took up scuba diving, hiking and went on long flying expeditions. She kept her brother informed about her inclination towards Pierre.
Kalpana’s brother prevailed upon his parents when Kalpana said she wanted to marry Jean Pierre. They were married in 1984. In 1988, Kalpana Chawla started work at NASA Ames Research Centre in the area of powered-lift computational fluid dynamics. Her research concentrated on simulation of complex air flows encountered around aircraft such as the Harrier in “ground-effect.”
In 1993, Kalpana Chawla joined Overset Methods Inc., Los Altos, California, as Vice President and Research Scientist to form a team with other researchers specialising in simulation of moving multiple body problems. She was responsible for development and implementation of efficient techniques to perform aerodynamic optimization.
In December 1994, she was selected by NASA and reported to the Johnson Space Centre in March 1995 as an astronaut candidate in the 15th Group of Astronauts. After completing a year of training and evaluation, she was assigned as a crew representative to work technical issues for the Astronaut Office EVA/Robotics and Computer branches.
On November 20, 1997, Kalpana Chawla was the first Indian woman to go into space, when the US space shuttle Columbia blasted off from the Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral in Florida. She flew on STS-87 (1997) and STS-107 (2003), logging more than 30 days in space.
Chawla was part of the six members crew on a 16-day research mission (January 16 to February 1, 2003) aimed at releasing a free flying satellite to study the Sun’s outer atmospheric layers. The experimental carrier, mounted in Columbia’s cargo bay, had a variety of high-tech devices designed to study how the weightless environment of space affects various physical processes.
The STS-107 mission ended abruptly on February 1, 2003 when Space Shuttle Columbia and her crew perished during entry, 16 minutes prior to scheduled landing.
Posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honour, the NASA Space Flight Medal, and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. On February 5, 2003, India’s Prime Minister announced that the meteorological series of satellites, “METSAT”, will be renamed as “KALPANA”.
The first satellite of the series, “METSAT-1”, launched by India on September 12, 2002 will be now known as “KALPANA-1”. The 74th Street in the “Little India” section of Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City has been renamed the 74th Street Kalpana Chawla Way in her honour.
Based on her will, a $3,00,000 fund was established on environmental conservation projects around the world. The “Kalpana Chawla Fund for Environmental Stewardship” has also been set up with the National Audubon Society.