Dr. Kalpana Chawla

Astronaut and aerospace engineer

Dr. Kalpana Chawla was the first Indian woman in space. Born in India, she immigrated to the United States after earning her degree in aeronautical engineering. In the 1980s, she became a naturalized citizen and obtained her masters and doctoral degrees in aerospace engineering. In 1994, NASA selected her as an astronaut candidate. Her first flight was in 1997 on the space shuttle Columbia, where she performed a spacewalk to recapture a Spartan satellite. Her second flight was in 2003 on Columbia, but when the shuttle re-entered Earth’s orbit for landing, part of the shuttle’s insulation broke off. This damaged the thermal protection system, causing hot gas to enter the wing and depressurizing the shuttle. All seven crew members died in the tragic accident. The crew’s legacy has been honored through documentaries and investigations to prevent future accidents. In 2010, the University of Texas dedicated a memorial to Chawla at the Arlington College of Engineering.

Learn more at space.com

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