Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian-American astronaut, had desired to travel the distant horizons and fulfilled that too. Growing up in a dominant male society, she never let her dreams of flying be affected in any way. Her wish came true when she first flew on the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997. She has been a role model to several women in terms of achievement and contributions to the field of aeronautics. Here are some interesting facts about this meteor of aerospace:
1. Born in A Male-Dominant Society
She was born on March 17, 1962, in Karnal (in the Indian State of Haryana). She belonged to an average middle-class family. Being raised in a society where boys are favored, and girls expected to be obedient and docile, Kalpana decided to beat the odds and follow her dreams with the support of her mother.
Source: iloveindia.com, Image: indianetzone.com
2. Always The First-Five!
She did her schoolings from Tagore Baal Niketan Senior Secondary School, Karnal, Haryana, India and completed her B.Tech in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh, India in 1982. Although she never scored the highest marks in her class, she was always among the first five.
Source: Wikipedia, Image: rediff.com
3. The Making of An Astronaut
To fulfill her desire of becoming an astronaut, she aimed at joining the NASA and moved to the United States in 1982. She obtained a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1984.
Source: Wikipedia, Image: wikimedia.org
4. The Story of Monto!
Monto was the name given to Kalpana by her parents, and it became her nickname.
5. Love in The Air
She got married to Jean-Pierre Harrison in 1983, who was a flying instructor and an aviation author.
Source: iloveindia.com, Image:imglop.com
6. Jack of All Traits
Kalpana liked poetry, dancing, cycling, and running. She also used to take part at sports events and was invariably first in all the races. She often played badminton and dodgeball with boys.
7. A Studious Astronaut
To be an astronaut she decided to have higher education. In 1986, she attained another master degree. In 1988, she completed a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Source: jsc.nasa.gov, Image: Wikipedia
8. First Flight
Her first flight was STS-87, the fourth U.S Microgravity Payload flight, on Space Shuttle Columbia from Nov. 19 to Dec. 5, 1997.
Source: spaceflight.nasa.gov, Image: wikimedia.org
9. Columbia’s Robot Arm
NASA selected her as an astronaut candidate in December 1994, and with her diligent work, soon, she became a mission specialist and operated Columbia’s robot arm.
Source: spaceflight.nasa.gov, Image: science.ksc.nasa.gov
10. A Certified Flight Instructor
Apart from being a certified commercial pilot for seaplanes, multi-engine aircraft, and glider, she was also a certified flight Instructor for glider and airplanes.
Source: Femina, Image: blog.scientificworld.in
11. A US Citizen
She became the citizen of the United States in the year 1991.
12. A Proud Astronaut
For her excellent services, she achieved many awards such as the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, NASA Space Flight Medal, and NASA Distinguished Service Medal.
13. A Vacuum That Would Never Be Filled
On February 1, 2003, along with 7 crew members, she died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, which happened when the Space Shuttle disintegrated over Texas during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
Source: Wikipedia, Image: i.space.com
14. An Astronaut That Belonged To The Whole Universe
Kalpana said after her first launch, “When you look at the stars and the galaxy, you feel that you are not just of any particular piece of land, but from the solar system.”