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Remembering Kalpana Chawla: First Women Astronaut Of India On 15th Death Anniversary

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| February 1 , 2018 , 11:51 IST

It is the 15th death anniversary of the first Indian-born women astronaut, Kalpana Chawla who died on February 1, 2013, while coming back from her second space mission. She was 40-years-old at the time of her death.

She made her first trip to space in 1997. On her second visit to space, the mishap happened when the Space Shuttle Columbia that she was in disintegrated over Texas and Louisiana as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere, killing all seven crew members, which included Kalpana Chawla.

The Space Shuttle Columbia exploded 16 minutes before landing on Earth. The spacecraft was on its 28th mission, and the sudden accident was caused by a damaged aluminium heat-insulating tile on the left wing of the shuttle.

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Kalpana Chawla was born on March 17, 1962, in Karnal, Haryana. She acquired her Bachelor of Engineering degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh in 1982. After completing her Bachelors, she moved to the United States for higher studies. There, she obtained a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1984. In 1988, she joined NASA Ames Research Center. Her area of research was Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Vertical/Short Takeoff and Landing concepts.

She first time flew on Space Shuttle Columbia STS-87 as a mission specialist in 1997.

Kalpna was awarded Congressional Space Medal of Honor, the NASA Space Flight Medal, and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal Posthumously.

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During her first space mission, she also spoke to the then Prime Minister of India Inderjit K Gujral from the orbit.

Whenever asked about how she felt about being the first Indian origin women to travel into space she always said "I never truly thought of being the first or second someone. If you want to do something, what does it matter where you are ranked?, Nor does being a woman make a difference. We were all just crew members."

The nation remembered Kalpana Chawla, who is an inspiration to many Indians, on her death anniversary.