Kalpana Chawla became the first woman of Indian descent in space in 1997. Six years later, on February 1, 2003, Chawla died when space shuttle Columbia broke off upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts on board.
However, Chawla’s legacy lives on. In particular, her talent and hard work have inspired the youth of India and surrounding countries The earth to consider careers in spaceships.
Born in Karnal, India, on March 17, 1962, to parents Banarasi Lal Chawla and Sanjyothi Chawla, Kalpana Chawla was the youngest of four children.
Until she started school, Chawla had not been officially named. Her parents called her Montu, but Chawla chose her own name from a selection when she entered education. The name Kalpana means “idea” or “imagination.” Her full name is pronounced CULL-pah-na CHAU-laalthough she is usually nicknamed KC
As a child, Chawla developed an interest in flying after seeing an airplane for the first time around the age of three. She spent many days with her father visiting the local flying club with her father and developed an interest in aviation while in school.
During her previous studies in India, Chawla attended Tagore Baal Niketan Senior High School, Karnal.
Chawla earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from Punjab Technical College. When choosing a course, professors tried to dissuade her, as there are very few opportunities for girls in India to follow this career path. However, Chawla was adamant that this was the topic for her.
After completing an engineering degree in India, Chawla immigrated to the United States in the 1980s and naturalized to continue her studies. She earned her master’s degree from the University of Texas and earned her doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado in 1988.
Chawla started working at NASA’s Ames . Research Center same year, research on computational fluid dynamics lifting power. Special, Her work focuses on understanding how the air circulates around the plane in flight and incorporates computers into the work.
Become an astronaut
In 1994, Chawla was selected as an astronaut candidate. After a year of training, she became a crew representative for the EVA Astronaut Office / Robotics and Computing Branch, where she worked on the Robotic Situational Awareness Monitor and tested software for the spacecraft. tho.
Chawla was passionate about providing science education opportunities for young girls in India, and during her time as an astronaut, NASA invited Chawla’s high school to participate in the Seasonal Space Experience Program. their summer. Every year since 1998, the school sends two girls to the International Space Education Organization’s Unified Space School in Houston, and Chawla invites them to her home for an Indian dinner.
Chawla’s first flight arrived in November 1997, on Shuttle Columbia on the flight STS-87. The space shuttle made 252 orbits of the Earth in just over two weeks. Chawla is a mission specialist and principal robotic arm operator for flight; The other astronauts on board were Kevin Kregel, Steven Linsey, Winston Scott, Takao Doi and Leonid Kadenyuk.
The Space Shuttle has carried out a number of experiments, including projects studying plant reproduction in microgravity and how materials behave in space.
In addition, Chawla used the robotic arm to deploy a satellite called SPARTAN 201, which aims to study the outer layer of the planet. Sun, is called the aura. However, the satellite malfunctioned and could not control its position when deployed, according to NASA. Two other astronauts from the mission had to make a go in space to recapture the satellite and the instrument has never conducted any research.
After the first flight, Chawla said, “When you look at the stars and the Milky Way, you feel that you’re not just from any particular piece of land, but also from the solar system.”
The Columbia Disaster
In 2000, Chawla was selected for her second spacewalk, as a mission specialist on STS-107. The mission was delayed several times before finally being launched on January 16, 2003.
During the 16-day flight, the crew completed more than 80 experiments, working to a strenuously variable schedule to ensure that the research never stopped, according to NASA. Among other works, the STS-107 crew tested technology that NASA wanted to recycle water aboard the fledgling International Space Station. Experiments developed by elementary school students around the world analyzed how insects and fish respond to cosmic light; another set of experiments studying the sun.
In particular, the flight carried a large pressurized chamber known as the Spacehab research module inside the space shuttle’s payload bay. The experiments completed in the Spacehab module focus on the biological and health sciences.
Between her two missions, Chawla recorded 30 days, 14 hours, and 54 minutes in space.
On the morning of February 1, 2003, the space shuttle returned to Earth, intending to land at kennedy space center. But as the shuttle passed through the Earth’s atmosphere, hot gas entered the shuttle’s wings, where a briefcase-sized piece of insulation broke during launch and damaged the thermal protection system, the shield. Protect it from heat during return.
The unstable craft rolled and jostled, worrying the astronauts. Less than a minute passed before the ship depressurized, kill the crew. On board were Rick Husband, Laurel Clark, Ilan Ramon, David Brown, William McCool and Michael Anderson.
The space shuttle parted ways with Texas and Louisiana before plunging to the ground. The crash was the second major disaster for the space shuttle program, after the 1986 shuttle explosion The Challenger.
NASA and independent groups are both investigating the Columbia disaster in hopes of averting another such tragedy. Examples include Columbia Accident Investigation Board (2003) and by NASA Columbia Crew Survival Investigation Report (released in 2008).
Each year, NASA marks the disappearance of Crew Columbia, as well as the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger and Apollo 1, on the last Thursday of January; Deadly missions are also frequently mentioned when NASA employees discuss the importance of prioritizing safety in human flight.
No NASA missions have been killed since the Columbia disaster.
Not long after the Columbia disaster, named scientists seven asteroids behind each crew as a “celestial memorial.” To mark the first anniversary of the disaster, NASA also names of seven hills on Mars for the missing crew.
University of Texas dedicated a memorial to Kalpana Chawla at Arlington Technical College in 2010. At the time of opening, the display included a flight suit, photographs, information about Chawla’s life and a flag that was flown over Johnson Space Center during the memorial service. memory of the Columbia astronauts.
In October 2020, a commercial cargo spacecraft named after Chawla was launched International Space Station (ISS). Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus capsule was named SS Kalpana Chawla, because of company policy to dedicate their Cygnus capsule to someone who has played an important role in human flight.
“Chawla was chosen to honor her prominent place in history as the first woman of Indian origin in space,” Northrop Grumman officials wrote in a statement.
Additional resources and reading
Chawla’s widower, Jean-Pierre Harrison, wrote a biography called “Edge of time“which he published in 2011. Additionally, several documentaries have been produced about the Columbia crew, including”The Astronaut Diary: In Memory of the Space Shuttle Columbia Crew“(2005), and the one that focuses on astronaut Ilan Ramon, is called”Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission Hope“(two thousand and thirteen).
- NASA, “Columbian Dedicated Asteroid on the Space Station”, August 6, 2003. https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/asteroids-dedicated-to-space-shuttle-columbia-crew
- NASA, “Biographical Data: Kalpana Chawla,” February 2003. https://history.nasa.gov/columbia/Troxell/Columbia%20Web%20Site/Biographies/Crew%20Profile%20Information/Crew%20Biographies/ASTRON~1.HTM
- NASA, “NASA dedicates landmarks on Mars to Crew Columbia”, February 2, 2004. https://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2004/feb/HQ_04048_columbia_landmarks.html
- NASA, “STS-87 Day 4 Highlights”, accessed February 10, 2022. https://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/missions/sts-87/sts-87-day-04-highlights.html
- NASA’s Life Science Data Archive, “STS-87,” accessed February 10, 2022. https://lsda.jsc.nasa.gov/Mission/miss/101
- NASA’s Life Science Data Archive, “STS-107,” accessed February 10, 2022. https://lsda.jsc.nasa.gov/Mission/miss/194
https://www.space.com/17056-kalpana-chawla-biography.html Kalpana Chawla: Columbia Biography & Catastrophe