Astronaut Kalpana Chawla

Kalpana Chawla was the first Indian-American astronaut and first Indian woman in space. She first flew on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997 as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator. In 2003, Chawla was one of the seven crew members killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.



Chawla was born in Karnal, India. She completed her earlier schooling at Tagore Baal Niketan Senior Secondary School, Karnal and completed her Bachelor of Engineering degree in Aeronautical Engineering at Punjab Engineering College at Chandigarh in 1982. She moved to the United States in 1982 where she obtained a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1984. Determined to become an astronaut even in the face of the Challenger disaster, Chawla went on to earn a second Masters in 1986 and a PhD in aerospace engineering in 1988 from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

She began working at the NASA Ames Research Center as Vice President of Overset Methods, Inc. where she did Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) research on Vertical/Short Takeoff and Landing concepts. Chawla held a Certificated Flight Instructor rating for airplanes, gliders and Commercial Pilot licenses for single and multi-engine airplanes, seaplanes and gliders.

She got Congressional Space Medal of Honor, NASA Space Flight Medal and NASA Distinguished Service Medal awards.

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