“When you look to the stars and the galaxy, you feel that you are not just from any particular piece of land but from the solar system.”
Indian-born, naturalized American Kalpana Chawla’s love for the stars and sky lead her to prove to girls the world over that brains are definitely sexy. With a commercial pilot’s license, a PhD in aerospace engineering, and over 360 hours logged in space, Dr. Kalpana Chawla became the first Indian-born woman and second person of Indian origin to fly in space.
On February 1, 2003, 16 minutes prior to ending her second mission in space, Dr Chawla along with her fellow crew members perished along with space shuttle Columbia while entering the Earth’s atmosphere. While her life may have ended abruptly, February 1, 2003 was not the end of her influence. After the space shuttle Columbia disaster, Kalpana Chawla was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, NASA’s Space Flight Medal, and NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal. She was also memorialized through several scholarships instituted in her name, one at the University of Texas El Paso and another by the government of Karnataka for young women scientists, and has an asteroid, several dorms, and the peak of a hill on Mars named after her. Dr. Chawla’s work in aerospace engineering in space and on Earth has inspired and continues to inspire young girls who look to the stars and feel that they are not just from any one piece of land but are representatives for all mankind.
For more info on Dr. Kalpana Chawla check out the book Kalpana Chawla, A Life.
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