Kalpana Chawla Collection

Kalpana Chawla was the first woman of Indian origin to become a NASA astronaut and fly on space missions. Born and educated in India (Karnal, Punjab), she came to the United States for graduate education in aerospace engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) and the University of Colorado. After earning a Ph.D. in 1988, she began work at NASA's Ames Research Center in computational fluid dynamics. Selected into the astronaut corps in 1994, she first flew as a mission specialist and robotic arm operator for the STS-87 microgravity research mission on Columbia in 1997. Her second flight on Columbia, the STS-107 research mission in 2003, ended tragically when the damaged orbiter disintegrated during its return through the atmosphere and the entire crew perished. Even before her untimely death, Chawla was a national hero in India, having risen from humble beginnings to attain the remarkable achievement of spaceflight. In India, schools and scholarships are named in her honor and her birthday is widely celebrated, and she is also memorialized in the United States. Her ashes were scattered in Zion National Park, Utah.