Kalpana Chawla: The First Indian Woman who touched the sky

Kalpana Chawla

Biography about kalpana chawla- The First Indian woman in Space 

Kalpana Chawla was an American astronaut engineer. She was the first Indian woman who touched the sky.

Many of you already heard of the life story and biography of Kalpana Chawla known as “India’s Daughter”.

However, her road to fame was never easy. Let us read a success story and Biography about kalpana chawla, first Indian woman in Space. We hope you are going to enjoy the success story and biography.

In 1997, she first flew on the space shuttle Columbia as a mission specialist & primary robotic arm operator. She was one of the seven-crew members died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003.

It happened when the spacecraft disintegrated during its re-entry into the earth atmosphere. Posthumously she was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honour.

Several universities, streets & institutions are named in her honour. In India, she is regarded as a national hero.

Early life:

She was born on 17th March 1962, in Karnal, Haryana. Originally her family hills from Multan (now Pakistan).

After partition, she settled in Karnal. To allow her to attend matriculation exam her official date of birth was altered to 1st July 1961.

She was fascinated by flying and aeroplane in childhood. She used to go to local flying club and watch planes with her father.

She said, “Once in a while we’d ask my dad if we could get a ride in one of these planes. And, he did take us to the flying club and we had a joyride in the Pushpak and a glider that the flying club had.”

Kalpana Chawla

In 1976, she graduated from the Tagore School as a high-performing student.

She received her Bachelor of Engineering degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College, India.

In 1982, she moved to US & after that, she obtained a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas in Arlington in 1984.

She achieved her second Masters in 1986 & a PHD in aerospace engineering in 1988 from The University of Colorado Boulder.


She began working at NASA Ames Research Centre in 1988. Kalpana did computational fluid dynamics (CFD) research at NASA on vertical and/or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) concepts.

Her research is included in conference papers and technical journals. She joined as Vice President and Research Scientist specializing in simulation of moving multiple body problems in 1993 at Overset Methods, Inc.

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She was certified with Flight Instructor rating for gliders, airplanes, and Commercial Pilot licenses for single and multi-engine seaplanes,airplanes, and gliders.

In April 1991, she became a naturalized U.S. citizen. After that, she applied for the NASA Astronaut Corps.

In March 1995, she joined the Corps. Kalpana was selected for her first flight in 1996.

First space mission:

On 19th November 1997, her first space mission began as a part of six- astronaut crew that flew the Space Shuttle Columbia flight STS-87.

She was the first Indian woman to fly in the space. While traveling in the weightlessness of the space, she told, “You are just your intelligence.”

She travelled over 10.4 million miles (16737177.6 km) in 252 orbits of the earth, logging more than 372 hours (15 days and 12 hours) in space on her first mission.

Kalpana was responsible for deploying the Spartan Satellite, during her first mission which malfunctioned, necessitating a spacewalk by Takao Doi and Winston Scott to capture the satellite.

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After completion of her first mission-STS-87 post flight activities, she was assigned to technical positions in the astronaut office to work on the space station.

Second space mission:

She was selected for her second flight as part of the crew of STS-107 in 2001.

That mission was repeatedly delayed due to scheduling conflicts and technical problems.

Finally, in January 2003, she returned to space abroad Space Shuttle Columbia on ill-fated STS-107 mission.

For mission STS-207, the crew performed about 80 experiments for studying Earth and space science, advanced technology development, and astronaut health and safety.

During the launch of STS-107, a piece of foam insulation had opened a hole in one of the shuttle’s wings, broke off from the space shuttle external tank & struck the left wing of orbiteer.

The crew could not fix the problem. In addition, because of that, when Columbia re-entered the atmosphere of Earth, it caused the spacecraft to become unstable and break apart.

After that disaster, Space Shuttle flight operators were suspended for more than two years.

Kalpana Chawla Death:

On 1st February 2003, Chawla died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster along with other six-crew members.

Chawla and other crew-members (Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, David Brown, commander Rick Husband, astronaut Michael Anderson, pilot William McCool, and astronaut Laurel Clark) remains were identified & were cremated & scattered at Zion National Park in Utah in accordance with her wishes.

Kalpana Chawla was a role model for anyone that dreamt of being an astronaut. We hope you find the inspiring biography and life story of Indian-born American astronaut useful and inspiring through your entrepreneurial journey and will keep you inspired.

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