path to become an astronaut began in Karnal, India.
"None of our
astronauts traveled a longer path to space than Kalpana Chawla,"
U.S. President George W. Bush said. "She left India as a student
but she would see the nation of her birth, all of it, from hundreds
of miles above."
that she wanted to be an aerospace engineer at an early age. She
was influenced by watching the planes from the local flying clubs
and by her father.
once in a while," Chawla said, "we'd ask my dad if we
could get a ride in one of these planes. And, he did take us to
the flying club and get us a ride in the Pushpak and a glider that
the flying club had."
from Tagore School, Karnal, India, in 1976 and received a bachelor's
degree in aeronautical engineering from India's Punjab Engineering
College in 1982.
moved to the United States to go to graduate school at the University
of Texas-Arlington, where she received a master's degree in aerospace
engineering in 1984. Then, she moved to Boulder, Colo., to pursue
a doctorate in aerospace engineering, which she received in 1988.
with NASA began in 1988 when she went to work for the Ames Research
Center in California. Chawla's work at Ames centered on powered-lift
computational fluid dynamics, which involves aircraft like the Harrier.
She left Ames
in 1993 to join Overset Methods Inc. in Los Altos, Calif., as vice
president and research scientist. She headed a team of researchers
specializing in simulation of moving multiple body problems. Her
work at Overset resulted in development and implementation of efficient
techniques to perform aerodynamic optimization.
successful career outside of NASA was brief. The agency selected
her as an astronaut candidate in December 1994, and she reported
to Johnson Space Center in March 1995.
flight was STS-87, the fourth U.S Microgravity Payload flight, on
Space Shuttle Columbia from Nov. 19 to Dec. 5, 1997. She was a mission
specialist and operated Columbia's robot arm.
She returned to space in Jan. 16, 2003, aboard Columbia. She served
as mission specialist during the 16-day research flight. The STS-107
crew conducted more than 80 experiments.
her six STS-107 crewmates perished Feb. 1, 2003, over Texas as Columbia
was re-entering Earth's atmosphere en route to a landing at Kennedy
Space Center, Fla.
survived by her husband. Her interests included hiking and backpacking.
She also enjoyed flying. She held a Certificated Flight Instructor's
license with airplane and glider ratings, Commercial Pilot's licenses
for single- and multi-engine land and seaplanes, and Gliders, and
instrument rating for airplanes.
In a memorial service on Feb. 4, 2003, Astronaut Office Chief Kent
Rominger said that Chawla loved her work and was respected by her
Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla grew up in Karnal,
India. STS-107 was her second space flight. This feature
video was produced before STS-107 launched on Jan. 16,
or K.C. to her friends, was admired personally for her extraordinary
kindness and technically for her strive for perfection," he
said. "She had a terrific sense of humor and loved flying small
airplanes with her husband and loved flying in space. Flying was
her passion. She would often remind her crew as her training flow
would be delayed and become extended, she would say, 'Man, you are
training to fly in space. What more could you want?'"
STS-107 preflight interview, she was asked who inspired her. She
responded that she was motivated by people who are giving it their
"I think inspiration
and tied with it is motivation," she said. "For me, definitely,
it comes every day from people in all walks of life. It's easy for
me to be motivated and inspired by seeing somebody who just goes
all out to do something."
a motivated person who made an impression on others.
the sad news reached her hometown," Bush said, "an administrator
at her high school recalled, 'She always said she wanted to reach
the stars. She went there and beyond.' Kalpana's native country
mourns her today and so does her adopted land."