TOP SECRET FILE: FIRST ASIAN WOMAN IN SPACE
Updated: Mar 15, 2021
NAME: KALPANA CHAWLA
Scale of Notoriety:
While her name hasn’t made its way into public knowledge, she is commemorated through several monuments and titles named in her honour. These include:
A NASA resupply spacecraft for the International Space Station (ISS), named "S.S. Kalpana Chawla".
An asteroid that circles between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter - called the 51826 Kalpanachawla.
A hill on Mars.
A series of Indian satellites, previously named MetSat, were all renamed "Kalpana" on February 5, 2003. India’s first weather satellite, "MetSat-1", launched on September 12, 2002, was hence renamed "Kalpana-1".
A NASA supercomputer dedicated to Chawla.
A planetarium in Kurukshetra (near Karnal), as well as a medical college and hospital in Karnal set up by the Haryana government worth Rs 650 crore.
A shuttlecraft, named the Chawla, in Peter David’s Star Trek novel, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Before Dishonor (2007).
Scale of Influence:
Kalpana Chawla was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and had several streets, universities, institutions and scholarships for her contributions and service to NASA following her death.
Resting Place in Zion National Park, Utah, USA. RIP space trailblazer for women!
Born in Kernal, India. Held aspirations to become an astronaut from a young age, when her favourite pastime was flying and making paper planes. Later moved to the United States to further her dreams of working in aeronautical engineering, completing her Masters and PHD there.
Her journey at NASA started while she was working towards her PHD, at the NASA Ames Research Center in the area of powered-lift computational fluid dynamics. She officially joined NASA in 1994, and began her training in March the following year. After a year and half of training, she graduated as a tech specialist for NASA’s Astronaut Office EVA/Robotics and Computer Branches.
In 1996, she was assigned her first space mission as a specialist and prime robotic arm operator on the flight STS-87, which made 252 orbits of the Earth, traveling 6.5 million miles in 376 hours and 34 minutes. She was later selected for her second space mission onboard the flight STS-107. However, tragically, she, along with her six other crew members, died on February 1, 2003, upon re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere, 16 minutes prior to scheduled landing.
Indian-American, born and raised in India, and later gained her US citizenship in 1991. While she is a naturalised US citizen, she is also honoured as a national hero in India.
Tech Skills – Qualified enough to work for NASA.
Indomitable Spirit – her father described her as someone who was focused and passsionate about acheiving her dreams.
Compassion – Kalpana Chalwa also had a dream that no child, especially girls, should ever be deprived of education. In 1998, she started the tradition of selecting and sending two kids from India to NASA every year. In total she helped send fourteen Indian children to NASA.
Flying – One of her long-time hobbies, and something she can’t resist doing.
Short Run – She died on her second space mission, cutting short her promising space career.
Hidden Talents: Aside from being highly intelligent and an expert engineer, Kalpana Chawla also had a love for the outdoors, and enjoyed hiking and backpacking.
Nadya Labiba is an Indonesian-Australian currently in her fourth year of Journalism and Languages and Cultures at University of Technology Sydney. Aside from interning at Captain Bagrat, Nadya is an avid community volunteer and a published contributor at Central News.
Bevin Liu is an ABC (Australian-born Chinese) in every sense of the word. Thinking that her life was set on a law degree, she is now going into the third year of her undergraduate degree in Journalism and International Studies (Majoring in China). On top of occasionally dropping into Captain Bagrats, she is working as a journalist for a regional newspaper, as the planning editor for Central News and trying to balance it with her new responsibilities as a member of UTS’s Academic Board. She would dabble in her love for animals and strange things through the university’s Cat Society and StartUp Link in her spare time.