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Kalpana Chawla: First woman of Indian origin in space

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Kalpana Chawla | First woman of Indian origin in space

16 years back on this day, India lost one of its most talented children when US Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated on its way back to the earth. India born Kalpana Chawla along with six other crew members lost her life. Kalpana Chawla continues to inspire millions of people with her journey from a small village in Punjab to space.

On the day, we remember Kalpana’s story of vigour and determination with tracing back the crucial events that occurred in her life.

  • Kalpana was born on March 17, 1962, in Punjab’s Karnal(now Haryana). Her official date of birth was altered to 1 July 1961 in order make her eligible for the matriculation exam.
  • Young Kalpana used to draw aeroplanes.
  • Kalpana Chawla received her Bachelors in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh in 1982. She went on to later pursue MS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas, she also earned PhD in aerospace engineering.
  • Chawla began working at NASA Ames Research Centre in 1988.
  • Following her long stay in the United States, she received the citizenship by naturalization in 1991.
  • In 1997, Chawla flew to space for the first time when she was chosen to be a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator in the Space Shuttle Columbia. With this, she became the first Indian-born woman to fly in the space.
  • On 1 February 2003, Chawla’s second flight to the space disintegrating on its way back to early over coming back. Kalpana died along with 6 others.
  • On 5 February 2003, the then Prime Minister of India, Atal Behari Vajpayee announced the renaming of Meteorological series of satellites to MetSat.
  • The Girls’ hostels at PEC and Delhi Technological University have been named in her honour.
  • Multiple scholarships, institutions in India and the United States of America have been named after her.

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