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Kalpana Chawla Essay

Kalpana Chawla was the first Indian-American woman with an ambition to explore outer space and discover its unique aspects. Since her childhood, she had set her eyes on becoming an astronaut. The constant desire to put her feet on the moon was her biggest source of inspiration and motivation. She became an inspiring example for many aspiring youngsters with courage, grit, and steadfast belief.

Kalpana Chawla Essay

Children and Education

Born on March 17th in Karnal, Haryana, she was nicknamed "starry-eyed" because she would stare at stars at night along with her siblings. In her childhood, she was greatly enthralled by flying and aeroplanes. From that point, she set her focus on unravelling the mysteries about space and the planets. She kept pounding herself to uncover the possibilities and overcome all the obstacles that stood in her way. She completed her graduation from Tagore school in the year 1976, where she was a top scorer and a bright student.

After earning her degree as an engineer with a major in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College, she shifted to America in 1982. She completed her MSc. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas in 1984. She then finished her second master's degree in 1986, and in 1988, she completed her PhD in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Journey as an Astronaut

In 1994, Kalpana Chawla was chosen to be an astronaut candidate. It took her a year of preparation and experience to become a crew representative of the Astronaut Office EVA/Robotics and Computer Branches. She was involved with Robotic Situational Awareness Displays and developed software for space shuttles.

She was passionate about providing the opportunity of studying science to young girls in India. While she was an astronaut, NASA offered her secondary school the opportunity to participate in its Summer Space Experience Program. Every year, beginning in 1998, two students were sent by the school to the FISEUSS (Foundation for International Space Education's United Space School) in Houston. Chawla would invite them to her home to enjoy dinner.

Kalpana Chawla Essay

Chawla's debut flight was in November 1997, aboard the spaceship Columbia on flight STS-87. The spacecraft completed 252 orbits around the Earth in just two weeks. Chawla was a mission expert and flight's primary robotic arm operator. Other astronauts included Leonid Kaden Yuk, Kevin Kregel, Winston Scott, Takao Doi, and Steven Linsey.

The spacecraft was home to a range of tests, including ones investigating the reproduction of plants in microgravity as well as how to behave and perform in space. Chawla also used the robotic arm to launch an orbiting satellite named SPARTAN 201, which was intended to study the outermost solar layer, which is known as the corona. However, the satellite failed and was unable to maintain its location after deployment, according to NASA. Two astronauts from the mission also had to go on an orbital walk to retrieve the satellite. The satellite was never used for studies.

Disaster Hits

The year 2000 saw her selection for a second mission in the STS-107 crew. This mission was delayed a number of times due to technical issues, but it finally received approval before it was started in 2003. The team conducted more than 80 tests during the course of 16 days. While returning to Earth on February 1st 2003, the spaceship's insulation broke and caused damage to its thermal protection system. When the spacecraft passed through the air, hot gas got sucked into the interior, creating a crack within the wings. The shaky shuttle was unable to manage the pressure and snapped up and ended up killing the crew before crashing into the ground.

Kalpana Chawla Essay

After the explosion of the Challenger (space shuttle) in 1986, this tragedy was the second big disaster. Alongside her, the others who perished included Pilot William C McCool, Payload Commander Michael P. Anderson, Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, the very first Israeli astronaut, as well as the mission expert David M. Brown and Laurel B. Clark and Commander Rick D.; all flight operations were suspended and cancelled over two consecutive years. She spent thirty days, fourteen nights and 54 minutes in space.

NASA and independent groups studied the Columbia tragedy in the hope of preventing another tragedy. Some examples include Columbia Accident Investigation Board (2003) and NASA's Columbia Crew Survival Investigation Report.

Each year on the last Thursday of January, NASA commemorates the death of its Columbia crew and astronauts from the Challenger spacecraft along with Apollo 1. Fatal missions are often mentioned in discussions when NASA staff discuss the necessity of prioritizing safety during space travel for humans. No NASA mission has seen fatalities since the Columbia catastrophe.


Kalpana Chawla strongly believed that one should always enjoy the path towards their final goal. If someone just does it for the goal without relishing the path, and it is as if the person was deceiving themselves. She had tremendous faith in her goals and was never easily discouraged. She always believed in enjoying steps towards achieving the destination.

Additionally, she created a larger image of herself in her mind. She believed that she was not created to be confined to a single place but rather to discover the whole universe. Her job was a contribution to humanity in general. Through all of her endeavours, she was driven to think outside the box and overcome every obstacle she came across. Her work is an inspiration and a motivational factor for young women and girls to take on big dreams and break through the glass ceiling by overcoming the stereotypes of society and their biased attitudes. She believed that the path from dreams to success was actually there. One just needs the vision, courage and perseverance to follow it through!

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