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Kalpana Chawla Biography

Kalpana Chawla’s story is that of an ordinary girl who dreamt high and reached the stars.

Born in Karnal, Haryana on July 1, 1961, she was one of the seven crewmembers who perished aboard Space Shuttle Columbia during mission STS-107 when it disintegrated upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
After earning a Bachelors in aeronautical engineering at Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh, India, she moved to the United States earning a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering, following it up with a second M.Sc degree in mechanical engineering and a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering, following which she started working with the NASA Ames Research Center.

She was selected for her first space flight in 1996, which began on November 19, 1997.

Kalpana Chawla thus became the first Indian-born woman and the second person of Indian origin to fly in space. After that inaugural flight, Chawla was assigned to various technical positions. In 2000, she was selected for her second space flight as part of shuttle STS-107.

She lifted off into space on January 16, 2003 and perished on February 1, 2003 over Texas when the shuttle disintegrated on its return to the earth’s atmosphere.