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This chapter gives an account of the life of Kalpana Chawla and her journey into space. It documents how the journey ended in a tragedy. Despite the unfortunate end, she remains a role model for all those who dare to dream.
Born in India in a town called Karnal, Kalpana Chawla grew up to become the first woman of Indian origin to travel into space. Her journey to become an astronaut started in India, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering. Despite opposition from her father, she fought for her dream and moved to the United States of America. There, she earned her master’s degree and a Ph.D. degree in the same field.
She not only became an astronaut but was also a licensed pilot and flight instructor. Her first journey into space took place in 1997 in a US space shuttle named Columbia. After the success of this mission, she applied to another space programme of NASA. After training as an astronaut, her second journey into space began on 16 January 2003.
The space shuttle carrying a crew of seven members travelled in space for a period of 15 days, 16 hours and 34 minutes. Chawla with her crew took 252 rounds around the Earth. The crew performed 80 successful experiments in space. But on its way back, the space shuttle broke apart in flames before it could safely land on Earth.
This accident is referred to as the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. It killed all the crew members including the Indian-American astronaut, Kalpana Chawla. She was not only a dreamer who had big ambitions but also a brave human who fought whatever obstacles came in her way.
Despite her tragic end, Kalpana Chawla remains a source of inspiration. Her message to the world was that everyone who has ambitions should also have the courage to begin their journeys.