Movie prime

Kalpana Chawla Biography, Early Life, Education, NASA Career, Death, Wikipedia

Kalpana Chawla

Engineer and astronaut Kalpana Chawla was of Indian descent. In addition, she is the first Indian woman to travel to space. In 1997, she made her first space flight aboard Space Shuttle Columbia, serving as the primary robotic arm operator and mission specialist. She died along with seven other crew members on Space Shuttle Columbia's second and last voyage in 2003 when the shuttle was reentering Earth. In addition to her work in aviation, she enjoyed flying tail-wheel and aerobatic aircraft. She also possessed a Certified Flight Instructor license and a Commercial Pilot certification for both land and marine aircraft.
Dr Kalpana Chawla | KC Scholars

Early Life

Chawla was the youngest of four siblings when she was born in the Indian city of Karnal in 1962. She is reported to have picked her name because she was always known to be self-assured and gregarious. She didn't have a formal name when she was accepted to a local school; at home, everyone called her by her nickname, Monto. Chawla was invited by the principal to choose one of the three names—Kalpana, Jyotsna, or Sunaina—that her family had in mind. She chose "Kalpana" with assurance. 

Her fascination with airplanes and aviation began in her early years. Chawla had become accustomed to observing the planes that flew over Karnal, one of the few Indian cities with a flying club at the time. Her father had taken her on a ride on a glider and a Pushpak, an event she cherished.


Kalpana Chawla received her early education at the Tagore Baal Niketan Sr. Sec. School in Karnal. She later graduated from Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh in 1982 with a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Aeronautical Engineering. To attend the University of Texas at Arlington, she later relocated to the United States in 1984. Here, she continued to get her M.S. in aircraft engineering. She also earned a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado in Boulder in 1988, along with a second M.S. in 1986. 

NASA Career

Chawla began working at NASA Ames Research Centre in 1988 as vice president of Overset Methods, Inc. She researched simulating the intricate air flows that surround aircraft as part of her job. Kalpana Chawla began working with Overset Methods Inc. in Los Altos, California, in 1993. In her role as vice president and research scientist, she was in charge of assembling a group of researchers to create and apply effective aerodynamic optimization techniques. 

Kalpana Chawla was chosen by NASA in December 1994 to be a member of the 15th Group of Astronauts, and she began reporting to the Johnson Space Centre in March 1995. She was given the responsibility of working on technical issues as the crew representative for the Astronaut Office EVA/Robotics and Computer Branches after completing a year of training and evaluation. Her responsibilities at the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory included testing space shuttle control software and developing robotic situational awareness displays. She was then assigned to Space Shuttle mission STS-87 in November 1996 as a mission specialist and prime robotic arm operator. As part of this mission, Chawla received her first chance to fly in space in November 1997.

In just over two weeks, the shuttle completed 252 orbits of the planet while conducting numerous experiments and using observation equipment. A Spartan satellite that Chawla launched from the shuttle to study the sun's outer layer eventually malfunctioned.

She was chosen to serve on the STS-107 crew for her second mission in 2000. After several delays, the mission was finally launched on January 16, 2003. Chawla was in charge of the crew's nearly 80 microgravity experiments throughout the 16-day space mission, which examined advanced technology development, astronaut health and safety, and earth and space research.


About 16 minutes before its scheduled arrival on February 1, 2003, Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew, including Kalpna Chawla, died as they were reentering Earth after a 16-day voyage. Following the disaster, investigations revealed that heated atmospheric gases had penetrated the space shuttle's heat shield through a hole in one of its wings, resulting in internal damage and the spacecraft burning up.

A 13-minute video footage captured the astronauts at the beginning of the re-entry, showing them going about their daily business and cracking jokes, suggesting they had no idea what was about to happen.