Kalpana Chawla was an Indian-American astronaut and the first Indian woman in space. She flew on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997 and lost her life, along with 6 others in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
Birth and early life
She was born in Haryana on March 17, 1962 and completed her schooling at the 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 then moved to the US where she achieved double MSc in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1984 and 1986 respectively. She also earned a PhD from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
She started working with NASA in 1988 in the Ames Research Center. In 1993, she joined Overset Methods, Inc. as Vice President and Research Scientist specializing in simulation of moving multiple body problems.
Kalpana was a certified pilot and a flight instructor airplanes, gliders and Commercial Pilot. She was selected for first flight in 1996 with the STS-87 where she was responsible for deploying the Spartan satellite, which malfunctioned. She was later selected for a second mission with STS-107, which seemed to be jinxed since the beginning. After much ado, the mission finally got a green signal and that is the last time that Chawla flew.
The STS-107 dismantled midway on its return journey when it entered the earth's atmosphere. All the 7 crew members died in the ill-fated flight on Feb 1, 2003 shortly before teh 28th mission was to be concluded. She was awarded postomously both by the US and the Indian government for her contribution to space science.