From a Small Town Girl to First Indian Woman Astronaut: Story of Kalpana Chawla


Sixteen Years ago it was a black day in history space travel that changed the way we travel in space. It was morning of February 1, 2003 when all eyes were looking at sky to welcome the astronauts of Space Shuttle Columbia. But suddenly everything was changed in less than a couple of minutes. The space Shuttle which was going to land safely became a ball of fire while being still in the sky. Its debris fell all over Houston and nearby cities in Texas. It happened so suddenly that people were shocked what had just happened. But till then Space shuttle Columbia have been disintegrated upon reentering earth atmosphere killing all seven astronauts onboard. It was the second of its kind of disaster after space shuttle challenger, which broke apart and killed the seven member crew after liftoff in 1986.

It was one of greatest loss to our nation and the world. When columbia got down, a legend died that day. Born and raise in karnal in 1961. Kalpana chawla was fascinated towards drawing of airplanes since her childhood. After getting a bachelor degree on aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College, she went to obtain Masters of Science Degree in aerospace engineering from University of Texas Arlington and then she went for PhD.

Shaping millions of dreams in one life is a kind of work every one isn’t capable of it. The journey from a small town girl to become an astronaut wasn’t easy. While she was growing up, she always dreamt of flying in the air like birds. She was also good in academic, apart from it she hold black belt in Karate and a lover of poems and literature. There is a incidence,

During a mathematics class, Kalpana’s teacher was explaining the concept of null set (empty set in algebra). To give an example, she said that a set of Indian women astronauts was a classic example of null set as till date no Indian woman had become an astronaut. To everybody’s surprise, Kalpana quipped, “Who knows, Ma’am, one day this set may not be empty!” At that time, no one in the classroom could imagine, let alone know, that the girl who had spoken these lines would herself go on to fill the set.

She is an inspiration for many upcoming generations. Having spent around 31 days 14 hours 54 minutes in two separate missions in space. She lived a dream many of us aren’t able to dream and inspired a whole generation.
In her last email to the students of Punjab Engineering College, Kalpana wrote: “The path from dreams to success does exist. May you have the vision to find it, the courage to get onto it, and the perseverance to follow it.”

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