March 15 - Women’s History Month Profile: Kalpana Chawla

Kalpana Chawla was the first Indian American woman to fly into space on the space shuttle Columbia. Born in Karnal, India, she aspired to be an aerospace engineer. She dreamed to fly as planes in the sky from the local flying clubs motivated her to pursue her goals. After college in India, Chawla moved to the United States for graduate school. In 1994, she applied to NASA, and was chosen for the astronaut program. From 1997 to 2003, she was a mission specialist and operated Columbia’s robotic arm to conduct more than 80 experiments in two missions to space. However, in 2003, at the conclusion of the second flight, Chawla and her six crewmates died when Columbia disintegrated over Texas as the shuttle re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. Chawla was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, the NASA Space Flight Medal, and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. Her travel to space exemplifies an inspirational story about a girl who dreamed to reach the stars, but ended up reaching the stars and much more.