Kalpana Chawla was an American astronaut and the first of Indian origin to go to space. She first flew the on space shuttle Columbia in 1997 as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator. The great astronaut who made India proud. It will truly inspire me.

Kalpana Chawla was born on 17 March 1962 in Karnal (Haryana). She was the first Indian - American astronaut and the first Indian woman in space. Kalpana was a woman of great patience and hard work. She proved that nothing is impossible, if you have a true and strong dedication towards your work. According to her teachers, Kalpana was always had a great interest in science and technology. She was known for her brilliant academic record throughout schooling.

Kalpana loved to sketch and paint airplanes. She made aero models and models of the Universe and constellations for science and geography projects in school. Her academic inclinations and Interests in aero modelling laid the foundation for a great journey to outer space that eventually rewrote many records. Kalpana graduated in aeronautical degree of engineering from Punjab engineering college.

She was the only girl in the aeronautics branch of her college. After completing her engineering degree, Kalpana was offered a job at HAL, Bangalore, but she turned it down as she was committed to taking her space ambitions further. In pursuit of her dream, Kalpana opted for the graduate aeronautical engineering programs for the MS degree in aero space engineering at the University of Texas. This was followed by another MS degree in mechanical engineering and a doctorate of philosophy in aero space engineering from the University of Colorado in 1988. Kalpana began working at NASA'S Ames Research Centre for the same year.

Meanwhile, inspired by JRD Tata, she took to flying and obtained her commercial pilot licenses for single and multi engine airplanes, seaplanes and gliders. In 1944, the much awaited dream was about to come true with NASA selecting Kalpana for astronaut training. She had to undergo evaluation for one year an arduous process that required immense levels of fitness. Kalpana Chawla's determination saw her through this rigorous training programs. In 1966, she was assigned the role of a mission specialist on STS -87 Columbia. In 1997, she finally realized her dream by being a part of a six astronaut crew aboard the 8TS -87.

Of her first trip to space, Kalpana said that sunrises and sunsets defined her experience in outer space. She yearned for a second chance and that came in 2003, when she was a part of the crew of STS -107, on a 16 day mission dedicated to science and research. On being selected again, she had then said, "Doing it again is like living a dream a good dream once again".

Kalpana Chawla died in the space shuttle Columbia disaster which occurred on 1 February 2003, she was dead along with the other six crew members, when the Columbia disintegrated over Texas, during re entry into the earths atmosphere. Kalpana will be remembered not only for her spectacular feats, but also for her message to children. Sadly, this time she went off on an eternal voyage to outer space never to return back.

Kalpana's parents must have had great foresight when they named their child Kalpana, meaning 'Imagination'. For in Kalpana's own words, she was led by, " A strong desire to travel beyond the blue yonder, to fly into the heavens and touch the stars some day". When you look at the stars and the galaxy, you feel that you are not just from any particular piece of land, but from the solar system. " Material interests are not the only guiding light. It is something you had enjoy doing in the long run. Take the time to figure out how to get there. The quickest way may not necessarily be the best. Listen to the sounds of nature, wishing you the best on your trek towards your dreams. Take good care of our fragile planet".

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