Celebrating Kalpana Chawla: A Pioneer in Space Exploration and Inspiration to Millions

    Born in Karnal, Haryana on March 17, 1962, Kalpana Chawla is the first Indian-born woman to fly in space. Her name makes practically all Indians proud.

    As a young child, Chawla had a fascination with airplanes and flying. She often accompanied her father to local flying clubs to observe aircraft. After completing her early studies in Karnal, she pursued a degree in aeronautical engineering at Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh. In 1982, she moved to the US to fulfill her dream of becoming an astronaut. She graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1984 with a master’s degree in aerospace engineering. Additionally, she earned a PhD in the same discipline from the University of Colorado in 1988. She joined the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1988. In 1983, she married Jean-Pierre Harrison.

    As the mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997, the Indian-origin American astronaut had her first space flight. In 15 days and 16 hours, she had completed 252 orbits around the planet during this mission.

    As per her request, they cremated Kalpana Chawla’s final remains. They dispersed them across National Park in Utah, US.

    Friends referred to her as KC. Chawla earned respect for her generosity and her relentless pursuit of excellence. Both the US and Indian governments awarded her numerous medals and honors for her contributions to space and scientific research after her death.

    India renamed MetSat-1 as Kalpana-1 after launching it on September 12, 2002. The Karnataka government created the Kalpana Chawla Award to honor young women scientists. In 2017, they established the Kalpana Chawla Government Medical College in Karnal, Haryana.

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    The Legacy of Inspiration

    Kalpana received several awards, including the NASA Space Flight Medal. She also got the NASA Distinguished Service Medal and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. In 2002, India named a satellite in her honor. It was part of the Met-Sat series. In 2017, Haryana built the ‘Kalpana Chawla Government Medical College’.

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