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Kalpana Chawla: An Inspirational Figure of Courage in the Indian Space History

Mathew George Thursday, July 15, 2021
Kalpana Chawla: An Inspirational Figure of Courage in the Indian Space History

“The coolest thing for me is the experience of floating and not feeling my weight. And hanging by a window just after sunset and watching the stars in the big black dome of the sky as the earth moves underneath.” ~ Kalpana Chawla

Whenever we see aeroplanes and rockets moving in the sky, we must be getting a thought that sometimes we also wanted to fly up in the sky. Yes, there is young girl who had a big dream like this and she has achieved her dream long back. She is Kalpana Chawla; the woman who left behind a legacy in the Indian Space History.

Kalpana Chawla was the first women Indian American astronaut who visited her dream outer-space. She flew on the space shuttle Columbia in 1997 to cross horizons and fly into space. Her life and victory is an inspiration to women all over the world. She was an ordinary girl but had enough courage and extraordinary abilities to work and achieve her goal and her passions. She has set an example for all of us to follow and conquer our dreams in our life.

A Dream Comes True

During summers, an 8 years old girl, while resting on a bamboo bed use to always stare at the sky. By observing the shooting stars in the beautiful dark sky, she uses to always get various questions. Slowly her questions got converted to a beautiful dream and this leads to the amazing passion led her to be an astronaut. With the help of her self-confidence, strong minded nature and hard work, she finally achieved her goal of life and made India proud by becoming the first Indian women to travel to the space.

Biography and Childhood:

Kalpana was born on 17th March, 1962, in Karnal in Haryana, India. She belongs to a normal middle class family. Her father, Banvarial Chawla was a small level trader and her mother Sanyogita was a home maker. Kalpana was the youngest among her four sisters.

She got educated from a private school named Baal Niketan Senior Secondary School which was near to her house. From childhood she likes to be an equal terms with boys. In the early age of 14, she learnt to drive a car. She was very much crazy for the Udaan club. She used to always dream about flying aero planes. She first flew in aeroplane when she was only in 8th grade. She completed her higher education and took admission in the engineering college of Chandigarh and in 1982 she received degree in Aeronautical Engineering.

Kalpana wanted to go to America for her higher studies, but her parents were not happy by this decision. With her courage and determination to achieve her dreams, she went to America and by 1984 she received the degree of M.S from Texas University. By that time she learnt flying aero planes too. She got married to her aero plane instructor Pierre Harrison and became a citizen of America. After her marriage she earned the doctorate P.H.D Degree in aeronautics. After that she applied for a request at America Space Agency for flying Columbia’s Space Shuttle in NASA. Among of 3000 applications 79 were finally selected by the American Space Agency, from which Kalpana Chawla was only the one Indian astronaut who had got selected. She patiently waited until all the selection process got over because of her dedication to be an astronaut. She was trained very well for a year at Space Centre in Houston. She also received training on how to survive in light weighted environment, and how to walk, sleep and eat in the outer space.

19th November 1997 was the most memorable day in her life because it was for the first time Kalpana Chawla took off in a Columbian spacecraft. She was flying as a scientific specialist in a group consisting of 6 members including herself. She was in the outer space for 15-16 hours and 33 minutes. Her complete schedule was already fixed from the moment they use to wake up and come out of sleeping bag till the time they had their dinner. Kalpana Chawla was a vegetarian and so she packed her vegetarian food. On December 5th 1997, she successfully returned to the Earth with her group members by completing their campaign. She was extremely welcomed and appreciated when she got back on the earth. Her space journey didn’t end here. She also selected for 2nd space tour in another Columbian Spacecraft.

In year 2000, she was included in the motor team of STS 107 space craft. This campaign was totally focused on a Scientific Research. She again got a chance with the help of Columbian Space Craft on 16th January 2003. They were all focussing in their researches for almost 15 days. Everyone was happy to be selected for the new campaign to the outer space. 1st February 2003 was the date when the Columbian Space craft was going to land on the earth. But they were not aware of the fact that they may not be return to the Earth because there was some problems with the aircraft. As soon as the space shuttle was coming closer to earth’s atmosphere, a phenomenon happened which was very shocking for the NASA as well as for the whole world. The world lost one of the brightest stars from the India, Kalpana Chawla. But the journey of Kalpana Chawla will be always inspiring us like a bright shining star.

Her Multi-Talents

From schooling, she got proper attention from her teachers. Kalpana enjoyed subjects like English, Hindi, and Geography. However, science is her favourite subject. She much more interest in extracurricular activities like dancing, cycling, running, and playing badminton.

In her childhood, Kalpana carried herself as a perfect tomboy and kept her hair short as for a boy look. She has no interest in spending money over makeup or fashionable clothes. Most girls of her age would like to wear new dresses and like to more beautiful during elder sister’s wedding, but she refused to wear new dresses and insisted on wearing the same dress for at least three days!

Achievements and Awards

In 1983, she was promoted to the position of Vice President of set Methods, Inc at NASA Research Center.

She made a computational fluid dynamics research on vertical/short take off, landing concepts and got certification for pilot license for seaplanes, multi-engine air place, and glider. She also became a certificated flight instructor for gliders and airplanes.

Recognition from NASA Kalpana starts her first Space mission on 19th November, 1997. She travelled to space on Space Shuttle Columbia flight STS-87 along with six other astronauts.

She made India proud by becoming the first Indian born woman to fly in space, and the second Indian to be in Space

Kalpana travelled on Earth over 10.4 million miles in 252 orbits and logging more than 372 hours in outer space.

She acquired plethora of awards like NASA Flight Medal Congressional Space Medal of Honour and NASA Distinguished Service Medal.

‘The path from dream to success does exist, May you have the vision to find it, the courage to get on to it and the perseverance to follow it’

-Kalpana Chawla

Kalpana Chawla has left her mark in every Indian as her name constitutes a pride on the heart of Indians. Youngsters should take an inspiration from her life and aspire to become an astronaut. She is an inspiration and the role model of victory in the mind of every girl. She may have taken US citizenship, but she is the golden fruit of India. People in India also emotionally call her “The Daughter of the Indian Soil” who made her country proud. Kalpana Chawla, her name itself makes us inspired and even though she is not with us now, the light which they lit will remain in the heart of every Indian forever.

Mathew George
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