(कल्पना चावला) (ਕਲਪਨਾ ਚਾਵਲਾ) (17 March 1962
– 1 February 2003
), was an Indian-American astronaut
and space shuttle
mission specialist. She was one of seven crewmembers killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster
Kalpana Chawla was born in a Hindu Indian
family in Karnal
means "imagination of the mind" and thus also "creation." Her interest in flying was inspired by J. R. D. Tata
, a pioneering Indian pilot
Kalpana Chawla studied at Tagore Public School, Karnal for her earlier schooling and she pursued further studies aeronautical engineering
at Punjab Engineering College
in Chandigarh, India
, in 1982 where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree. She was one of the three women in the college at the time. She moved to the United States
in 1982 and obtained a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering
from the University of Texas at Arlington
(1984). Chawla earned a second Master of Science degree in 1986 and a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering in 1988 from the University of Colorado at Boulder
. Later that year she began working for NASA Ames Research Center
as vice president of Overset Methods, Inc. where she did CFD
research on V/STOL
. Chawla held a Certificated Flight Instructor rating for airplanes, gliders and Commercial Pilot licenses for single and multiengine airplanes, seaplanes and gliders. She held an FCC
issued Technician Class Amateur Radio
license with the call sign KD5ESI.
She met and married Jean-Pierre Harrison, a flying instructor and aviation writer, in 1983 and became a naturalized United States citizen
Chawla joined the NASA astronaut corps in March 1995 and was selected for her first flight in 1998
Her first space mission began on November 19,1997 as part of the six astronaut crew that flew the Space Shuttle Columbia flight STS-87. Chawla was the first Indian-born woman and the second person of Indian origin to fly in space, following cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma who flew in 1984 in a Soviet spacecraft. It must be noted that while Rakesh Sharma represented India, Chawla was an American astronaut who represented the United States. Sharma and Chawla never met despite their common interests. On her first mission Chawla traveled over 10.4 million miles in 252 orbits of the earth, logging more than 360 hours in space. During STS-87, she was responsible for deploying the Spartan Satellite which malfunctioned, necessitating a spacewalk by Winston Scott and Takao Doi to capture the satellite. A five-month NASA investigation fully exonerated Chawla by identifying errors in software interfaces and the defined procedures of flight crew and ground control.
After the completion of STS-87 post-flight activities, Chawla was assigned to technical positions in the astronaut office, her performance in which was recognized with a special award from her peers.
In 2000 she was selected for her second flight as part of the crew of STS-107. This mission was repeatedly delayed due to scheduling conflicts and technical problems such as the July 2002 discovery of cracks in the shuttle engine flow liners. On January 16 2003 Chawla finally returned to space aboard Columbia on the ill-fated STS-107 mission. Chawla's responsibilities included the SPACEHAB/FREESTAR microgravity experiments, for which the crew conducted nearly 80 experiments studying earth and space science, advanced technology development, and astronaut health and safety.
Chawla's last visit to India was during the 1991 - 1992 new year holiday when she and her husband spent time with her family. For various reasons, Chawla was never able to follow up on invitations to visit India after she became an astronaut.
Chawla was a vegetarian
. On her mission, she carried a white silk banner as part of a worldwide campaign to honor teachers, as well as nearly two dozen CDs, including ones by Abida Parveen
, Yehudi Menuhin
, Ravi Shankar
, and Deep Purple
. She went to her first rock concert, a Deep Purple show, in 2001 with her husband. "Kalpana is not necessarily a rock music aficionado", her husband said at a Deep Purple show, "...but (she) nevertheless characterized the show as a 'spiritual experience.'" She enjoyed birdwatching, backpacking, hiking, flying, and reading. Quoting philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca
she always said, "I was not born for one corner; the whole world is my native land.
- Kalpana Chawla Memorial Scholarship program was instituted by Indian students association (ISA) at the [University of Texas at El Paso] [(UTEP)] in 2005 for meritorious graduate students.
- Asteroid 51826 Kalpanachawla, one of seven citations named after the Columbia's crew
- On February 5 2003, India's Prime Minister announced that the meteorological series of satellites, "METSAT", will be renamed as "KALPANA". The first satellite of the series, "METSAT-1", launched by India on September 12 2002 will be now known as "KALPANA-1". "KALPANA-2" is expected to be launched by 2007.
- 74th Street in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City has been renamed 74th Street Kalpana Chawla Way in her honor.
- The University of Texas at Arlington (where Chawla obtained a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering in 1984) opened a dormitory named in her honor, Kalpana Chawla Hall, in 2004.
- Kalpana Chawla Award award was instituted by the government of Karnataka in 2004 for young women scientists
- The girls hostel at Punjab Engineering College, is named after Kalpana Chawla. In addition, an award of INR twenty five thousand, a medal, and a certificate is instituted for the best student in Aeronautical engineering department
- NASA has dedicated a super computer to Kalpana.
- One of Florida Institute of Technology's student apartment complexes, Columbia Village Suites, has halls named after each of the astronauts, including Chawla.
- NASA Mars Exploration Rover mission has named seven peaks in a chain of hills, named the Columbia Hills, after each of the seven astronauts lost in the Columbia shuttle disaster, including Chawla hill after Kalpana Chawla.
- Steve Morse from the band Deep Purple created a song called "Contact Lost" in memory of the Columbia tragedy along with her interest in the band. The song can be found on the album Bananas.
- Kalpana Chawla has inspired several young Indians aspiring to be astronauts.
- Her brother, Sanjay Chawla, remarked "To me, my sister is not dead. She is immortal. Isn't that what a star is? She is a permanent star in the sky. She will always be up there where she belongs.
- Novelist Peter David named a shuttlecraft, the Chawla, after the astronaut in his 2007 Star Trek novel, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Before Dishonor.
- Among The Stars-Life and Dreams of Kalpana Chawla by Gurdeep Pandher
- India's 50 Most Illustrious Women (ISBN 81-88086-19-3) by Indra Gupta