Kalpana Chawla: Scholar Story of 1st Indian Origin Women Astronaut

From politicians to sports personalities to industrialists, people from various walks of life took to the micro blogging site to pay their tribute to Kaplana Chawla on her 56th birth anniversary. She was the first Indian-born woman to fly in space.

“Remembering Astronaut Kalpana Chawla on her birth anniversary. Her accomplishments will continue to be an inspirational force for youth, especially young girls across the world,” Union Minister Piyush Goyal said in his message.

“My tributes to Late #KalpanaChawla, first Indian Woman Astronaut, on her birth anniversary. She continues to be an incredible role-model & inspiration as she showed the world that nothing is impossible for women if they have strong will.@NASA,” Union HRD Minister Javadekar tweeted.

“Remembering astronaut Kalpana Chawla on her birth anniversary,” West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said.

Celebrities from sports world too paid their tribute to the legendary space engineer.

“Tributes to #KalpanaChawla on her birth anniversary. Kalpana , a woman who gave wings to her dreams , a symbol of courage and strength. She remains immortal in our hearts and an inspiration for all,” cricketer Virender Sehwag said.

“Heartfelt tributes to #KalpanaChawla , the first Indian American woman in space on her birth anniversary !,” cricketer Mohammad Kaif said.

“Remembering India’s immortal daughter, the first Indian woman in space #KalpanaChawla on her birth anniversary… She is an inspiration to every Indian,” Naveen Jindal said in a tweet.

From a small town in India to becoming the first Indian woman to travel to space, her journey is an eternal testimony to her hard work and dedication.

An inspiration to many women, Kalpana moved to the United States in 1982 after getting a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh. In the US, she got Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas in 1984.She also got a second Masters in 1986 and a PhD in aerospace engineering in 1988 from the University of Colorado Boulder.

To give wings to her dreams, Kalpana first flew on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997 as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator. She was the first Indian-born woman and the second Indian person to fly in space after astronaut Rakesh Sharma who flew in 1984.

In 2000, Chawla was selected for her second flight as part of the crew of STS-107. This mission was delayed due to scheduling conflicts and technical problems. In 2003, Chawla finally returned to space aboard Space Shuttle Columbia on the ill-fated STS-107 mission where she died along with other crew member.

A number of scholarships were instituted in her name. To support Indian student participation in international space education programs, the Kalpana Chawla ISU Scholarship fund was founded by alumni of the International Space University in 2010. Another scholarship with the name the Kalpana Chawla Memorial Scholarship program was instituted by the Indian Students Association at the University of Texas in 2005 for meritorious graduate students.