Remembering Kalpana Chawla on her Birth Anniversary: Honoring the Legacy of a Pioneer in Space Exploration

Kalpana Chawla, the first person of Indian descent to visit space, was born on March 17, 1962. We honour her amazing accomplishments, her unyielding resolve, and her enduring legacy today on the anniversary of her birth.

At India's Karnal, where she was born, Kalpana Chawla first expressed an interest in flying. Before relocating to the US to pursue her master's and doctoral degrees in aerospace engineering, she graduated from Punjab Engineering College with a degree in aeronautical engineering. Her love of space travel and aviation inspired her to naturalise as a US citizen in 1991.

When NASA chose Chawla to be an astronaut, her trip to space officially began in 1994. She made history in 1997 when she became the first person of Indian ancestry to fly in the Columbia space shuttle. Later, in 2003, she took part in a second mission on the same spacecraft.

Kalpana Chawla tragically perished in the Columbia catastrophe in 2003. All seven crew members died when the spacecraft disintegrated upon re-entering the Earth's atmosphere.

Although passing away too soon, Kalpana Chawla's legacy lives on. Several others were influenced by her, particularly young women and girls, to pursue careers in mathematics, science, and technology (STEM). Her fortitude, tenacity, and enthusiasm for adventure continue to serve as an example to people all across the world.

Many honours and medals have been given to her posthumously in recognition of her contributions to the world of space exploration. In her honour, the Kalpana Chawla Memorial Prize was created to recognise Indian women who have made remarkable achievements to the aeronautics industry. She has a mountain on Mars named after her by NASA, and a SpaceX cargo spacecraft will bear her name in 2021.

On the anniversary of her birth, we honour Kalpana Chawla's life and accomplishments. We pay tribute to her memory by advancing scientific research, motivating younger people to follow their aspirations, and making sure that her legacy endures.