Kalpana Chawla was an Indian-born American astronaut and mechanical engineer who was the first woman of Indian origin to go to space. She first flew on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997 as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator.
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 16 January 2003, Chawla finally returned to space aboard Space Shuttle Columbia on the ill-fated STS-107 mission.
All seven astronauts aboard the spacecraft were killed in the accident; among them was India’s first female astronaut, Kalpana Chawla. She was born in Karnal, Haryana, in 1962 and moved to America at the age of 20. She received a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering two years later.
Chawla’s legacy has lived on, however. In particular, her talent and hard work have inspired young people in India and around Earth to consider careers in spaceflight.
After her first flight, Chawla said, “When you look at the stars and the galaxy, you feel that you are not just from any particular piece of land, but from the solar system.”