Field –Aerospace Engineering
Well,who does not know about the famous Ms. Kalpana Chawla ! I guess, none . But, I believe that the more we talk about such legends, the less it is ! Because, they did something so great that, we commoners can only think ! Life is not kind and at least at this point in my life I have realised that how difficult it can get. I am sure , everyone have their own share of problems. These legends must have had their own share of upheavals as well , but nonetheless they did something remarkable and hence, I do not think it can ever get tiring to discuss their work .
I remember I was in college, when I heard the news of the unfortunate death of all the crew members of the space shuttle, Columbia due to the sudden explosion as it entered the earth’s atmosphere and the sad demise of Ms. Kalpana Chawla . I had broken down then. I do not know why, but it had felt like a personal loss.
As a child , I would often look at the night sky and gaze at stars while I spent time with my family on the terrace. Everytime, I spotted the pole star or saw a constellation, my heart would be filled with pure joy ! And with my hands stretched out I would draw patterns in the sky by joining the stars. The Big Bang theory or the very fact that the Universe is ever expanding has always amused me. I often think about life that might exist else where and the possibility of another planet like Earth existing somewhere else with a different kind of life on it. May be these things in my subconscious mind had made me feel very proud, when Kalpana Chawla set history by becoming the first Indian woman to go to space as it was indeed a proud moment when an Indian woman set herself free in the Outer Space !
February 1 is observed with a sense of sadness each year as it was on this day when Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian-origin woman to venture into space, passed away along with her crewmates in 2003.According to NASA, the spacecraft was just 16 minutes away from the scheduled landing when the disaster occurred.
Kalpana Chawla was born in a Punjabi Hindu Family in Karnal . Her parents had migrated to India from Pakisthan after the partition. Since childhood, she was fascinated with the aeroplanes and wondered how they flew ! Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata, the founder of Air India and India’s first licensed pilot was a huge source of inspiration for her, which explains her interest in flying aerobatics and tail-wheel aeroplanes.
After graduating from Punjab Engineering College, Kalpana headed for Texas for her Master’s, following which she gained a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado.
It was in 1988 when Kalpana started working at NASA Ames Research Center and gained US citizenship in 1991. She was selected for the first space mission in the year 1997 as part of the six-astronaut crew that flew the Space Shuttle Columbia flight STS-87 and became the first woman to go into space.
She spoke the following words while traveling in the weightlessness of space,
“You are just your intelligence.”
In 2001, Chawla was selected for her second flight as part of the crew of STS-107.The crew performed nearly 80 experiments studying Earth and space science, advanced technology development, and astronaut health and safety. But this mission was ill fated and ended in the death of all the crew members including Kalpana Chawla on 1st Feb 2003. And thus India lost a jewel forever !
My one line take takeaway: It is not necessary that once you achieve your dream , you will live a happier life , yet you can inspire a whole generation to dream and work for it by becoming imortal through your achievements.
PS: I have planned to take up non-fiction this year as my theme for the A2Z challenge, where every day in the month of April ( except Sundays) I will be writing about women in the stream of science and their contributions. This main objective is to draw inspiration and share information about such great lives who did it, despite all difficulties in their life.
I’m participating in #BlogchatterA2Z .