Kalpana Chawla - An Inspiration
Kalpana Chawla was the first Indian-origin woman to go into space. She was born on March 17 1962, in a place called Karnal in Haryana. Since childhood, Kalpana had a curiosity to go to space. She was interested in flying and had a fascination with aeroplanes. Due to her combative and passionate nature, she was not afraid of difficulties.
She had her early education at Tagore Public School, Karnal. She did her bachelor of Science from Punjab Engineering College Chandigarh. After completing her degree in aeronautical engineering in India, Kalpana immigrated to the United States of America in the 1980s. She obtained her master's degree from the University of Texas and finished her doctorate in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Colorado in 1988.
In 1988, Kalpana Chawla started working at NASA's Ames Research Center. She was selected as an astronaut in the 15th group of astronauts at the Johnson Space Center.
After one year of training, she worked with Robotic Situational Awareness Displays and software testing of space shuttles. Kalpana Chawla's first space voyage was completed by STS-87 Columbia Space shuttle. She spent 376 hours in space. She completed 252 orbits of the earth in just two weeks. She became the first woman of India to go to space. She was a mission specialist and prime robotic arm operator for the flight.
Kalpana Chawla's second and final flight started from the Columbia Space Shuttle. The mission was delayed several times due to various reasons. But on January 16 2003, the operation was finally initiated. Kalpana, along with her colleagues, conducted about 80 tests. The mission lasted for about 16 days. But unfortunately, the space shuttle crashed while entering the earth's orbit. Little insulation had broken off during launch and damaged the thermal protection system. It is a shield that protects the shuttle from heat during re-entry. All seven people on board died, along with Kalpana Chawla.
If the accident of Kalpana's space shuttle had not happened on that day just 16 minutes before the landing, she would have achieved more heights in the field of space. During her time as an astronaut, she wanted to provide education to young girls of India. She also spent her money helping impoverished kids by sending them to school.
Kalpana Chawla continues to inspire thousands of young women in India to pursue their dreams. She will be remembered as the first Indian woman who went to space despite facing many difficulties.