Kalpana Chawla born on March 17, 1962 in Karnal, Haryana, India. She was an American astronaut, and the first Indian-born woman in space. As a child, Kalpana was fascinated by aeroplanes and dreamt of flying to space. Her father Banarasi Lal Chawla took up several petty jobs to provide for his family, her mother Sanyogita managed the household.
Kalpana’s natural curiosity, independent nature and delight in discovering how things worked were encouraged by her mother. Kalpana’s house was just a few kilometres away from flying club called Karnal Aviation Club, she would often watch them go roaring over her head, waving her hand at the pilot if the plane flew low over the house.
Chawla pursued her graduated from the Tagore School In 1976, where she was a very bright student. Kalpana Chawla obtained a degree in aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College. She moved to the United States in 1982 and becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in April 1991. She earned a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado in 1988, having previously obtained her master’s degree from the University of Texas in 1984. The same year (1988) she began working at NASA’s Ames Research Center on power-lift computational fluid dynamics.
Kalpana Chawla married to Jean-Pierre Harrison in 1983. After getting her Bachelor of Engineering degree in Aeronautical Engineering, she moved to the United States to obtain her Master from the University of Texas in Arlington where she first met Jean-Pierre Harrison. He was his obtaining professional pilot qualification at that time.
First Space Mission
She joined the NASA Astronaut Corps in the year 1995 and was selected for her first flight in 1996. In 19 November 1997 Chawla’s got the first opportunity to fly in space, aboard the space shuttle Columbia on flight STS-87 as part of the six-astronaut crew. Kalpana was the first Indian woman to fly in space. The shuttle travelled over 10.4 million miles, made 252 orbits of the Earth, in just over two weeks and carried a number of experiments and observing tools on its trip, including a Spartan satellite, astronaut health and safety and advanced technology development. After the successfully completion of STS-87 post-flight activities, Kalpana was assigned to technical positions in the astronaut office to work on the space station.
Second Space Mission
In 2001, Chawla was selected for her second flight into space, serving again as a mission specialist on STS-107. The mission was delayed several times due to scheduling conflicts, and finally launched in January 16, 2003. Over the course of the 16-day flight was dedicated science and research mission. The crew completed more than 80 experiments. The crew members performed nearly 80 experiments studying earth and space science.
On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia fell apart over Texas during its return into the earth’s atmosphere. During the launch of STS-107, Columbia’s 28th mission, a briefcase-sized piece of insulation had broken off from the Space Shuttle external tank and struck the left wing of the orbiter. As the shuttle re-entered the earth’s atmosphere, hot gas streamed into the internal wing structure, caused it to break up shortly before it was scheduled to conclude its 28th mission.