Kalpana Chawla

  • STS -87 (1997)
  • STS- 107 (2003)

Kalpana Chawla ( born July 1, 1961 in Karnal, Punjab, India; † 1 February 2003 on the south of the United States ) was the first woman of Indian origin in space. She died in the crash of the Columbia in the spring of 2003.


At the Engineering College in Chandigarh Chawla studied as the only woman at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering. After graduating in 1982, she emigrated to the United States and continued her studies in the field of aviation and space technology: first, she earned a master's degree in 1984 from the University of Texas and received his doctorate four years later at the University of Colorado.

By obtaining the doctoral degree Chawla got a job at NASA Ames Research Center, where she researched for five years by computer, the flow behavior of the air on airplanes. In 1993, she came as Vice President for the company founded two years earlier Overset Methods in Silicon Valley. There she sat as head of a research group continues its work on issues of aerodynamics.

Astronauts activity

In 1994 she was accepted into the astronaut team of NASA.

STS -87

On 19 November 1997 Chawla started as a mission specialist aboard STS -87 aboard the space shuttle Columbia for their first space flight. In the Spacelab flight, the two astronauts Winston Scott and Takao Doi took two spacewalks ( EVAs ). In the first EVA, they began a the exposed at the beginning of the flight research satellites SPARTAN, the Chawla had previously exposed and who had run into an uncontrolled tumble. In addition, for the first time the so-called AERCam was tested, a 40 -centimeter ball, which can explore equipped with a position control, and a camera system difficult to access structures.

STS -107

Chawla and six other astronauts launched on 16 January 2003 with the Space Shuttle Columbia on mission STS - 107. On this 16-day research mission about 80 scientific experiments were carried out. At the start of the Space Shuttle, however, a foam piece had come loose from the external tank and hit the port wing of the orbiter. The damage was indeed noticed, but classified by NASA as not critical. As the shuttle returned to Earth on Feb. 1, penetrated by a damaged heat tile hot gases into the wing and melted it from the inside. The shuttle was out of control and broke into the atmosphere. Kalpana Chawla and all other crew members were killed.

Awards and honors

Among other Chawla were awarded the following awards:

In honor of Kalpana Chawla named the Indian Space Agency ISRO their meteorological satellite Kalpana METSAT 1 in 1 order. In addition, an asteroid of the main belt ( ( 51826 ) Kalpanachawla ) was named after her.