No Indian will ever forget the footage of Space Shuttle Columbia exploding into pieces on February 1, 2003. The visuals of the Shuttle shattering and hurling down like fire balls have etched in memories of those thousands who viewed it on the television.
It was on this day, the first Indian woman in space, Kalpana Chawla died along with six other crew members.
When Kalpana was selected for the Space Shuttle Mission, she was the second Indian to fly into space after Rakesh Sharma.
Shortly after her death, India renamed its first weather satellite as 'Kalpana 1' in her honour.
Here are some interesting facts about Kalpana, a woman who kept her dream alive till the end.
- Kalpana Chawla was born on July 1, 1961, in Karnal, Haryana.
- Her interest in flying into space was inspired by India's first pilot J R D Tata.
- She was 'KC' to her friends in NASA and her nickname in India was 'Montu'.
- Kalpana Chawla spent 30 days, 4 hours, and 54 minutes in space.
- She received her Bachelor degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College.
- Kalpana obtained her Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas.
- Chawla had a Ph.D. in aerospace Engineering from the University of Colorado.
- She worked in NASA'S Ames Research Center and even had certified Flight Instructor's license and Commercial Pilot’s licenses for single- and multi-engine land and seaplanes.
- On her mission, she carried a white silk banner as part of a worldwide campaign to honour teachers, as well as nearly two dozen CDs, including ones by Abida Parveen, Yehudi Menuhin, Ravi Shankar, and Deep Purple.
- Kalpana enjoyed hiking, bird watching, reading, flying and backpacking.
- In the year 2004, the Government of Karnataka instituted an award in her name for awarding young women scientists.
- The Government of Haryana built Kalpana Chawla Planetarium in memory of her.
- Seven asteroids circling the Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter were named after the astronauts who died in the space shuttle Columbia accident. 51826 Kalpanachawla is an asteroid named as a mark of respect.
- She was the first Indian American astronaut and first Indian woman in space.
- Chawla's first mission to space was in Space Shuttle Columbia Flight STS-87 as a mission specialist. Her final mission was in STS-107.
- After her first launch, she said, "When you look at the stars and the galaxy, you feel that you are not just from any particular piece of land, but from the solar system."
- NASA had dedicated a supercomputer to Chawla.
- 74th street in Jackson Heights, New York City was renamed Kalpana Chawla Way.