Kalpana Chawla Biography, Age, Early Life, Education, Career, space voyage, space mission, Experience, Personal Life, Family, Husband, Children, Awards, Net Worth, Social Media

Kalpana Chawla Biography

Kalpana Chawla (17 March 1962 – 1 February 2003) was an Indian-born American astronaut and aerospace engineer who became the first woman of Indian descent to travel to space.

She initially flew on the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997, as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator on STS-87.

Chawla’s second journey occurred aboard STS-107, Columbia’s final voyage, in 2003.


She was one of seven crew members killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy on 1 February 2003, when the ship was destroyed during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Chawla was posthumously given the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and various streets, universities, and institutions are named after her.

Kalpana Chawla Biography
            Kalpana Chawla Biography

Kalpana Chawla Profile

Born March 17, 1962


Karnal, India
Died February 1, 2003 (aged 40)

Over Texas, U.S.
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, U.S.
  • India (1962–1996)
  • United States (1991–2003)
Education Punjab Engineering College (BEng)
University of Texas, Arlington (MS)
University of Colorado, Boulder (MS, PhD)
  • Congressional Space Medal of Honor
  • NASA Distinguished Service Medal
  • NASA Space Flight Medal
Space career
NASA astronaut
Time in space
31d 14h 54m
Selection NASA Group 15 (1994)
Missions STS-87
Mission insignia
Scientific career
Fields Aerospace engineering
Thesis Computation of Dynamics and Control of Unsteady Vortical Flows (1988)
Kalpana Chawla Biography
            Kalpana Chawla Biography

Kalpana Chawla Early Life and Education

Kalpana Chawla was born on March 17, 1962, into a Punjabi Hindu household in Karnal, Haryana.

She was born into a traditional environment, but she defied many customs to become the first Indian-born female astronaut.

She graduated from the Tagore Baal Niketan Senior Secondary School in Karnal.

Chawla grew up attending local aviation clubs and watching planes with her father.

Chawla went to the United States in 1982 after receiving his Bachelor of Engineering degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College in India.

In 1984, she graduated with a Master of Science degree in aeronautical Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington, and she went on to obtain a second Master’s degree in 1986 and a PhD in aeronautical engineering in 1988 from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Kalpana Chawla Biography
           Kalpana Chawla Biography

Kalpana Chawla Career

Chawla joined NASA’s Ames Research Center in 1988, where she originally worked on computational fluid dynamics research for vertical and/or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) concepts.

Much of Chawla’s research has been published in technical publications and conference papers.

In 1993, she became vice president and research scientist at Overset Methods, Inc., where she specialized in the simulation of moving multiple body difficulties.

Chawla possessed a Certified Flight Instructor certification for airplanes and gliders, as well as a Commercial Pilot license for single and multi-engine airplanes, seaplanes, and gliders.

She applied to the NASA Astronaut Corps after becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States in April 1991.

Chawla entered the corps in March 1995 and was assigned to her first flight in 1997.

Kalpana Chawla’s first space voyage

Chawla’s first space mission began on November 19, 1997, as a member of the six-person crew that flew the Space Shuttle Columbia on STS-87. Chawla was the first Indian woman to go into space.

While floating in space, she said, “You are just your intelligence.” Chawla had gone 10.67 million kilometers (252 times around the Earth).

On her maiden mission, Chawla traveled 10.4/6.5 million miles in 252 Earth orbits, spending more than 376 hours (15 days and 16 hours) in space.

During STS-87, she was in charge of releasing the Spartan Satellite, which malfunctioned and required a spacewalk by Winston Scott and Takao Doi to capture it.

A five-month NASA probe exonerated Chawla by identifying faults in software interfaces and flight crew and ground control protocols.

After completing STS-87 post-flight activities, Chawla was assigned to technical posts in the astronaut office to work on the space station.

The second space mission and death

Chawla was chosen to be a member of the STS-107 crew for her second journey in 2000.

This mission was continuously delayed due to scheduling difficulties and technical issues, including the July 2002 discovery of fractures in the shuttle engine flow liners.

On the ill-fated STS-107 mission, Chawla returned to orbit on the orbit Shuttle Columbia on January 16, 2003.

The crew conducted approximately 80 experiments to investigate Earth and space science, advanced technological development, and astronaut health and safety.

During the launch of STS-107, Columbia’s 28th flight, a piece of foam insulation broke off from the Space Shuttle’s external tank and impacted the orbiter’s port wing.

Previous shuttle missions have suffered minimal foam shedding, but several engineers felt that the damage to Columbia was more severe.

NASA managers limited the investigation, claiming that the crew could not have solved the problem if it had been proven.

When Columbia re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on February 1, 2003, the damage allowed hot atmospheric gases to penetrate and destroy the interior wing structure, causing the spacecraft to become unstable and disintegrate over Texas.

Chawla died like the other six crew members.

Space Shuttle flight operations were suspended for more than two years following the catastrophe, as was the case with the Challenger.

Construction of the International Space Station (ISS) was halted; the station relied only on the Russian Roscosmos State Corporation for resupply for 29 months until Shuttle missions restarted with STS-114 and 45 months for crew rotation.

Chawla’s ashes were identified, along with those of the other crew members, and were cremated and strewn at Zion National Park in Utah, under her wishes.

Kalpana Chawla Biography
          Kalpana Chawla Biography

Kalpana Chawla Personal Life

Kalpana Chawla married Jean-Pierre Harrison on December 2, 1983, at the age of 21.

After the Columbia catastrophe, Harrison was approached by filmmakers to make a film about Chawla’s life, but he declined since he wished to keep their lives private.

Kalpana Chawla Biography
                   Kalpana Chawla Biography

Kalpana Chawla In Popular Culture

Mega Icons (2018-2020), an Indian documentary television series on National Geographic about prominent Indian individuals, aired an episode about Chawla’s achievements.

Sarayu Blue plays Kalpana Chawla in the 2023 film “A Million Miles Away” about Mexican farmworker turned astronaut Jose Hernandez.

Kalpana Chawla Biography
                Kalpana Chawla Biography

Kalpana Chawla Honors

  • The fourteenth contracted Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft mission to supply supplies to the International Space Station was called the S.S. Kalpana Chawla after her.
  • Asteroid 51826 Kalpana Chawla is one of seven named after the Columbia crew.
  • The lunar crater Chawla was named after Kalpana Chawla.
  • On February 5, 2003, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India’s Prime Minister at the time, stated that a meteorological satellite series, MetSat, would be renamed “Kalpana 1”. The first satellite in the series, “MetSat-1,” launched by India on September 12, 2002, has been renamed “Kalpana-1.”
  • 74th Street in the “Little India” in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City, New York, United States, has been renamed “Kalpana Chawla Way”.
  • Kalpana Chawla Street in Rayon Nagar, Sirumugai, a village in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India, was named in her honor.
  • The Government of Karnataka established the Kalpana Chawla Award in 2004 to recognize young women scientists.
  • NASA has dedicated a supercomputer after Chawla.
  • Columbia Village Suites, one of Florida Institute of Technology’s student housing complexes, features halls named after each of the astronauts, including Chawla.
  • The NASA Mars Exploration Rover expedition has named seven peaks in a series of hills, the Columbia Hills, after each of the seven astronauts who died in the Columbia shuttle accident. One of these is Chawla Hill, which was named after Chawla.
  • Steve Morse of Deep Purple wrote the song “Contact Lost” in memory of the Columbia disaster.
  • Chawla knew Morse and went on the trip with the band Machine Head, which featured the song “Space Truckin'”. Morse’s tribute song may be found on the album Banana.
  • The Chawla shuttlecraft was named after the astronaut by novelist Peter David in his 2007 Star Trek novel, The Next Generation: Before Dishonor.
  • In 2010, International Space University (ISU) alumni established the Kalpana Chawla ISU Scholarship Fund to encourage Indian women to participate in international space education programs.
  • The Indian Students Association (ISA) at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) established the Kalpana Chawla Memorial Scholarship Program for deserving graduate students in 2005.
  • The University of Colorado’s Kalpana Chawla Outstanding Recent Alumni Award, granted in 1983, was renamed after Chawla.
  • In 2004, the University of Texas at Arlington opened Kalpana Chawla Hall, a dormitory named after Chawla’s Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from 1984.
  • In addition, on May 3, 2010, the university dedicated the Kalpana Chawla Memorial in Nedderman Hall, one of the key buildings in the College of Engineering.
  • Punjab Engineering College’s girls’ hostel (also known as a university dormitory in India) is named after Chawla. In addition, the best student in the Aeronautical Engineering department receives INR 25,000, a medal, and a certificate.
  • The Haryana government created the Kalpana Chawla Planetarium near Jyotisar, Kurukshetra.
  • The Kalpana Chawla Space Technology Cell was established in her honor by the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur.
  • Delhi Technological University named a ladies’ dorm block after Chawla.
  • Columbia Colony, a military housing development at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, features a roadway named Chawla Way.
  • A hostel block at Pondicherry University has been named after Chawla.
  • Kalpana Chawla Government Medical Institution (KCGMC) is a medical institution in Karnal, Haryana, India, named after Chawla. Kalpana was born in Karnal.
  • The National Institute of Technology in Kurukshetra dedicated a girls’ hostel after Chawla.
  • The National Institute of Technology in Bhopal named its girls’ dorm Kalpana Chawla Bhawan.
  • On April 1, 2022, a satellite named after Chawla (ÑuSat 24, or “Kalpana”, COSPAR 2022-033X) was launched into space as part of the Satellogic Aleph-1 constellation.
Kalpana Chawla Biography
            Kalpana Chawla Biography

How many scientists died alongside Kalpana Chawla?

Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, United States. Chawla’s second journey occurred aboard STS-107, Columbia’s final voyage, in 2003. She was one of seven crew members killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy on 1 February 2003, when the ship was destroyed during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

How many hours did Kalpana Chawla spend in space?

Kalpana Chawla, PhD, was an engineer, pilot, and astronaut who spent more than 30 days in orbit aboard two orbit Shuttle missions. Chawla was born in Karnal, India, and has been interested in aviation from her infancy.

Was Kalpana Chawla married?

Title: Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla poses with her husband Jean-Pierre Harrison during the last prelaunch activities before liftoff.

What exactly was Kalpana Chawla’s dream?

Kalpana’s desire had always been to travel to the moon, and she was able to achieve her goal through hard work and determination. Kalpana Chawla’s maiden space mission took off on November 19, 1994. She later traveled aboard Space Shuttle Columbia Flight STS-87.

What was the reason behind Kalpana Chawla’s death?

We lost Kalpana Chawla in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, which occurred on February 1, 2003, when the Space Shuttle disintegrated over Texas during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven crew members just before it was scheduled to complete its 28th mission, STS-107.

What is the truth about Kalpana Chawla’s death?

Tragically, upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere on its return flight, the Space Shuttle Columbia imploded, killing all seven crew members on board, including Kalpana Chawla. Her remains were cremated and, according to her desires, were dispersed at the National Park in Utah.

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