Kalpana Chawla

NASA Photo: Crew of STS-107, Section from official photo

Honor and Justice


Kalpana Chawla


What better way to begin Women’s History Month than to honor an individual we hold in the highest regard, a woman who worked hard her entire life to reach the stars, and one who succeeded to the point where she is still remembered as one of NASA’s elites.  Kalpana Chawla was an astronaut, engineer, pilot, and role model for millions throughout the world.



Kalpana was born in Haryana, India on March 17, 1962.

She was interested in flying from a very young age and worked hard for her entire life in pursuit of her dreams.

She is best known for being the first woman astronaut in space who was born in India.

NASA Photo of Kalpana Chawla, STS-87 Mission Specialist

Kalpana Chawla immigrated to the United States in 1982 and became an American citizen. Her extensive education included a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College, a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas, and a doctorate degree in Aerospace Engineering from University of Colorado

NASA Photo 9710391 of Kalpana Chawla (left) training with crew for STS-87

The First Trip to Space

Chawla started working for NASA in 1988 in the Ames Research Center in California. She began NASA’s rigorous training to become an astronaut in 1995.  On November 19, 1997, she embarked on her first mission on board Space Shuttle Columbia’s flight STS-87. Chawla was the Mission Specialist and primary operator for the shuttle’s robotic arm. After fifteen days in space and 252 orbits around the Earth the crew returned home, landing safely at the Kennedy Space center on December 5.

NASA Photo: Kalpana Chawla

A Hero’s Sacrifice 

On January 16, 2003, Chawla launched into space for a second time on the Space Shuttle Columbia. This was unfortunate flight STS-107, the last mission for the spacecraft and her crew. For fifteen days the astronauts carried out a variety of important investigations and experiments.

On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart and disintegrated while reentering the Earth’s atmosphere on the return trip, killing all seven members of her crew, including Kalpana Chawla.

Kalpana Chawla received numerous awards and honors, including the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal. She is a true hero who lived her life in the spirit of exploration and for the advancement of science.

Today we remember Kalpana and the rest of her crew for their sacrifice. We remind girls everywhere to reach for the stars!

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Honor and Justice

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