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June 14, 2018

Essay : Astronaut Kalpana Chawla - An Inspiring Legend for the Youth

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Astronaut Kalpana Chawla - An Inspiring Legend for the Youth

  • Childhood and family profile. 
  • Educational life.  
  •  Started working at NASA and her achievement. 
  • About her missions.
  • Second mission and its failure caused her death. 
  • Posthumous awards and honours.
Kalpana Chawla was India's first woman aeronautical engineer to travel into space. She became a role model to Indians in terms of achievement and her contributions to the field of aeronautics. She
was just an ordinary Indian girl, with her extraordinary courage and ambition, became a source of encouragement to women all over the world to follow their dreams and work hard to succeed. Kalpana was born on 17th March, 1962, in a small town of Karnal in Haryana. Her parents were Banarasi Lal Chawla and Sanjyothi who had three daughters and one son, of them Kalpana was the youngest.

She passed out from Tagore Bal Niketan School in Karnal, India, in 1976. She completed her graduation degree in Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College, India, in 1982, Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from University of Texas, in 1984 and Doctorate of Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering from University of Colorado, in 1988. In 1988, Kalpana Chawla started working at NASA Ames Research Centre in the area of powered-lift computational fluid dynamics. Her research concentrated on simulation of complex air flows encountered around aircraft. On completion of this project, she supported research in mapping of flow solvers to parallel computers and testing of these solvers by carrying out powered lift computations.

In 1993, Kalpana Chawla joined Overset Methods Inc, Los Altos, California, as the Vice President and Research Scientist to form a team with other researchers specialising in simulation of moving multiple body problems. She was responsible for development and implementation of efficient techniques to perform aerodynamic optimisation. Selected by NASA in December, 1994, Kalpana Chawla reported to the Johnson Space Centre in March, 1995, as an astronaut candidate in the 15th group of astronauts. After completing a year of training and evaluation she was assigned as crew representative to solve technical issues for the Astronaut Office EVA/Robotics and Computer Branches. Her assignments included work on development of robotic situational awareness displays and testing space shuttle control software in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory.

In November, 1996, Kalpana Chawla was assigned as the mission specialist and prime robotic arm operator on STS-87 (19th November to 5th December, 1997). STS-87 was the fourth US Microgravity Payload flight and focused on experiments designed to study how the weightless environment of space affects, various physical processes and on observations of outer atmospheric layers of the sun. In completing her first mission, Kalpana Chawla travelled over 1.0.4 million miles in 252 orbits of the Earth and logged 376 hours and 34 minutes in space. In 2000, she was again assigned on her second flight mission as a part of Flight STS-107. During the course of this mission, there was several mishaps and cracks were detected in the shuttle engine flow liners. The mission was delayed and finally launched in 2003. On 16th January 2003, she flew on space shuttle Columbia Flight STS-107.

The STS-107 Columbia (16th January to 1st February, 2003), a 16-day flight was a dedicated science and research mission. Working 24 hours a day, in two alternating shifts, the crew successfully conducted approximately 80 experiments. While the shuttle was returning back to Earth, it malfunctioned and disintegrated. The STS-107 mission ended abruptly on 1st February, 2003 which caused the death of Kalpana along with six other crew members, 16 minutes prior to scheduled landing. Instead of a celebration, a pall of sadness descended on India, as' much of the country watched the video footage showing the disintegration of the space shuttle Columbia. On February 2004, Kalpana was posthumously awarded with the congressional Space Medal of Honour given by the United State Government. She was also awarded with NASA Space Flight Medal and NASA Distinguished Service Medal. To honour Kalpana Chawla, India's weather satellite METSAT has been named as Kalpana-I.

The Government of Haryana also established the Kalpana. Chawla Planetarium in Jyotisar, Karukshetra, Kalpana Chawla Government Medical College in Karnal, Haryana. The Kalpana Chawla Award was instituted by the government of Karnataka in 2004 to recognise young women scientists. The Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur named the Kalpana Chawla Space Technology Cell in her honour. Kalpana Chawla is such a figure who with her strong will power and her accomplishments rose to such a height.

Difficult Words with Meanings :
  • Simulation condition of, examination of a problem often not subject to direct experimentation by means of a simulating device
  • Pall to deprive of pleasure in something
  • Disintegration decomposition
  • Space Shuttle a spacecraft designed to be used for travelling between the earth and a space station
  • Posthumously done after someone's death
shared by Nisheeta Mirchandani
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