Kalpana Chawla was a versatile Indian-born American astronaut and engineer who was well recognized for being the first woman of Indian origin to go to space. She first flew on Space Shuttle “Columbia” in 1997 as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator. She joined NASA and began her career as a researcher, working on various topics first at Ames Research Center and then at Overset Methods Inc. Meanwhile, she became a certified pilot with a commercial license for multi-engine airplanes, seaplanes, and gliders. Chawla traveled once again into space aboard ill-fated Space Shuttle “Columbia” flight STS-107 and remained in the space for about sixteen days in 2003. Sadly, she died at the age of forty when the Space Shuttle “Columbia” disintegrated over Texas, sixteen minutes prior to landing.

Death Cause

Chawla leave the world forever on 1st February 2003, in the Space Shuttle “Columbia” disaster, along with the other six crew members, when the Columbia disintegrated over Texas during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, shortly before it was scheduled to conclude its 28th mission, STS-107. Her remains were identified along with those of the rest of the crew members and were cremated and scattered at Zion National Park in Utah in accordance with her wishes.

Famous For

  • Being an Indian-born American astronaut and engineer.
  • For being the first woman of Indian origin to go to space.

What Nationality was Kalpana Chawla?

Kalpana Chawla was born on 17th March 1962 in Karnal, East Punjab, India. She held Indian nationality and belongs to mixed ethnic background. Similarly, her religion was Hindu and her race was black. Kalpana lastly celebrated her 40th birthday in the March of 2002 and as per birth date, her star sign was Pisces. Her father, Banarasi Lal Chawla, originally from the Multan district of West Punjab, relocated to Haryana after the country was partitioned in 1947. Her mother, Sanyogita Chawla, was a homemaker. She had three siblings named Sunita Chawla, Sanjay Chawla, Deepa Chawla.

Regarding Kalpana’s education, she got a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College and obtained a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1984. Chawla went on to earn a second master’s in 1986 and a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering in 1988 from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Kalpana Chawla Dies At 40

Source: @thelogicalindian

How was the Career of Kalpana Chawla?

  • Kalpana Chawla kicks off her career working at NASA Ames Research Center in 1998, where she did Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) research on vertical and/or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) concepts.
  • She then joined Overset Methods, Inc. as Vice President and Research Scientist specializing in the simulation of moving multiple body problems in 1993.
  • She applied for the NASA Astronaut Corps and joined the corps in March 1995 and was selected for her first flight in 1997.
  • On 19th November 1997, her first space mission began as part of the six-astronaut crew that flew the “Space Shuttle Columbia” flight STS-87 and she was the first Indian woman to go in space. 
  • Chawla was assigned to technical positions in the astronaut office to work on the space station after the completion of STS-87 post-flight activities.
  • She was selected for her second flight as part of the crew of STS-107 in 2001 whereas she finally returned to space aboard Space Shuttle “Columbia” on the ill-fated STS-107 mission in 2003.
  • During the launch of STS-107, “Columbia’s” 28th mission, a piece of foam insulation broke off from the Space Shuttle external tank and struck the left-wing of the orbiter. 
  • The damage allowed hot atmospheric gases to penetrate and destroy the internal wing structure when Columbia re-entered the atmosphere of Eart, which caused the spacecraft to become unstable and break apart.
  • Space Shuttle flight operations were suspended for more than two years after the disaster, similar to the aftermath of the Challenger disaster. Construction of the International Space Station (ISS) was put on hold; the station relied entirely on the Russian Roscosmos State Corporation for resupply for 29 months until Shuttle flights resumed with STS-114 and 41 months for crew rotation.

Awards and Achievements

  • The fourteenth contracted Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft mission delivering supplies to the ISS was named the S.S. Kalpana Chawla after her. 
  • Asteroid 51826 Kalpana Chawla, one of seven named after the Columbia’s crew 
  • The lunar crater Chawla was named after Kalpana Chawla. 
  • On 5th February 2003, the Prime Minister of India at the time, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, announced that a meteorological series of satellites, MetSat, was to be renamed “Kalpana 1”. The first satellite of the series, “MetSat-1”, launched by India on 12 September 2002, was renamed “Kalpana-1”. 
  • 74th Street in the “Little India” of Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City, New York, United States, has been renamed “Kalpana Chawla Way” in her honor. 
  • In honor of her, a street was named Kalpana Chawla Street in Rayon Nagar in Sirumugai, a village in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India.
  • The Kalpana Chawla Award was instituted by the Government of Karnataka in 2004 to recognize young women scientists. 
  • NASA has dedicated a supercomputer to Chawla. 
  • One of Florida Institute of Technology’s student apartment complexes, Columbia Village Suites, has halls named after each of the astronauts, including Chawla.
  • The NASA Mars Exploration Rover mission has named seven peaks in a chain of hills, named the Columbia Hills, after each of the seven astronauts lost in the Columbia shuttle disaster. One of them is Chawla Hill, named after Chawla.
  • Steve Morse from the band Deep Purple created the song “Contact Lost” in memory of the Columbia tragedy. Chawla knew Morse and took the band’s Machine Head, featuring the song “Space Truckin'” with her on the mission. Morse’s tribute song can be found on the album Bananas. 
  • Novelist Peter David named a shuttlecraft, the Chawla, after the astronaut in his 2007 Star Trek novel, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Before Dishonor. 
  • The Kalpana Chawla ISU Scholarship fund was founded by alumni of the International Space University (ISU) in 2010 to support Indian women’s participation in international space education programs. 
  • The Kalpana Chawla Memorial Scholarship program was instituted by the Indian Students Association (ISA) at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) in 2005 for meritorious graduate students. 
  • The Kalpana Chawla Outstanding Recent Alumni Award at the University of Colorado, given since 1983, was renamed after Chawla.
  • The Government of Haryana established the Kalpana Chawla Planetarium in Jyotisar, Kurukshetra. 
  • The Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, named the Kalpana Chawla Space Technology Cell in her honor. 
  • Delhi Technological University named a girls’ hostel block after Chawla. 
  • Military housing development at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, has been named Columbia Colony and includes a street named Chawla Way.
  • A hostel block in Pondicherry University has been named after Chawla. 
  • Kalpana Chawla Government Medical College (KCGMC) is a Medical college located in Karnal, Haryana, India named after Chawla. Kalpana was born in Karnal.
  • The National Institute of Technology, Kurukshetra named a girls’ hostel after Chawla.
  • The National Institute of Technology, Bhopal named a girls’ hostel Kalpana Chawla Bhawan.

Indian-American, astronaut and engineer

Source: @filmindependent.org

Who was Kalpana Chawla’s Husband?

Kalpana Chawla was a married woman. She was married to Jean-Pierre Harrison, at age of 21 on 2nd December 1983. After the “Columbia” disaster, Harrison was approached by filmmakers to make a movie on Chawla’s life, but he refused, as he prefers to keep their life private. Harrison has since remarried and has a young son. He runs a publishing company in Los Gatos, California. Furthermore, talking about Kalpana’s sexual orientation, she was straight.

How much was Kalpana Chawla’s Net Worth?

Kalpana Chawla had a net worth of $75 million at the time of her death (2003) whereas she had also a handsome amount of salary which was also in millions of dollars per year. She was among those few individuals that had such a wide range of experience and remained true to whatever she embarked on. Kalpana had reached great heights in her career. In addition, her major source of income was from her astronaut and engineer career.

What was the Height of Kalpana Chawla?

Kalpana Chawla stood at an ideal height of 5 feet and 9 inches with a balanced bodyweight of 60 kg. She definitely had a pretty face and a magnetic personality which had cast a spell over her viewers over the years. Kalpana had black hair and dark brown eyes color. Moreover, her body build type was slim.

Source: Gossip

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