Kalpana Chawla: The Female Astronaut

Kalpana Chawla
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

Kalpana Chawla’s passion for flight led to her becoming a NASA astronaut. She began her higher studies in India, graduating from Punjab Engineering College with a B.S. in aeronautical engineering in 1982. After relocating to the United States, she pursued a career in aeronautical engineering, earning an M.S. from the University of Texas and a Ph.D. again from the University of Colorado. Dr Kalpana Chawla started working at NASA in 1995 and was deployed to the spacecraft STS-87 as a flight engineer in 1997, making her the very first Indian-American lady to go into space. Kalpana was a member of the Shuttle Columbia crew when it disintegrated as it re-entered the Earth in Feb 2003.

Kalpana Chawla About

Kalpana Chawla joined Tagore Baal Niketan Sr. Sec. School in Karnal for her earlier education. In 1982, she graduated from Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh with a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Aeronautical Engineering. She relocated to the U. S. in 1982 and graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering in 1984. The University of Colorado at Boulder awarded Kalpana Chawla a second M.S. degree in 1986 and a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering in 1988. In that year, she started as vice chairman of Overset Methods, Inc. at NASA Ames Research Center, where she undertook CFD research on Vertical/Short Takeoff and Landing concepts. Kalpana Chawla had Commercial Pilot licenses for single and multi-engine airplanes, seaplanes, and gliders, as well as a Certificated Flight Instructor rating for aircrafts and gliders.

NASA Career

In March 1995, Kalpana Chawla enrolled in NASA Astronaut Corps and was chosen for her first trip in 1996. While going through space weightlessness, she said, that people are simply their intelligence.” Chawla had traveled a total distance of 10.67 million kilometers or 252 times all around Earth.

Her maiden space mission took place on November 19, 1997, when she was a member of the six-person crew that piloted the spacecraft Columbia on flight STS-87. Alongside cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma, who traveled in a spacecraft in 1984, Kalpana Chawla became the first Indian- American woman and the second Indian citizen to travel in space. On her maiden mission, Chawla went almost 10.4 million miles in 252 orbits around the planet, accumulating over 372 hours in space. During STS-87, Kalpana was in charge of launching the Spartan Satellite, which failed to deploy and required Winston Scott and Takao Doi to perform a spacewalk to recover the satellite. After a five-month study, NASA totally exonerated Kalpana Chawla when they discovered faults in software applications and aircrew and mission control protocols.

Chawla was transferred to technical posts in the astronaut’s area to work on the spaceship station after completing the STS-87 post-flight operations. She received a special award from her colleagues.

NASA chose her for her second journey as a member of the STS-107 crew in 2000. Due to schedule difficulties and technical issues, like the discovery of breaches in the shuttle engine flow liners in July 2002, NASA frequently postponed its mission. Chawla made his triumphant return to space onboard the Columbia on the doomed STS-107 mission on January 16, 2003. Chawla was in charge of the microgravity experiments. The crew carried out almost 80 investigations to learn more about Earth and space research, advanced technological development, plus astronaut health & safety.

Kalpana’s Legacy

Kalpana Chawla’s life and profession acted as an example to women who aspire to be astronauts one day. Kalpana’s legacy lives on even after she has passed away. Kalpana’s father, Banarasi Lal Chawla, says his daughter’s only wish is for youngsters, particularly women, to have access to education. Even though NASA highly compensated her, she was unconcerned about worldly possessions, preferring to spend her money on sending poor children to school.

Kalpana Chawla Net Worth

Kalpana Chawla is one of the wealthiest astronauts and most well-known astronauts. Kalpana Chawla has a net worth of $1.5 million.


She died in the spacecraft Columbia accident on Feb 1, 2003, after the spacecraft Columbia exploded over Texas upon re-emerging into the Earth’s atmosphere, and killed all seven team members just as the program’s 28th mission, STS-107, was set to end. Kalpana Chawla news about her death was devastating to many people. Kalpana Chawla age at the time of death was 40 years.


Who is Kalpana Chawla astronaut, married to?

She exchanged vows in 1983. She was married to Jean-Pierre Harrison.

Where is Kalpana Chawla astronaut born?

She was born in Karnal, India, on March 17, 1962.

How many times did Kalpana Chawla go to space?

She spent 30 days, 14 hours, and 54 minutes in space on STS-87 (1997) and STS-107 (2003) missions.

When did Kalpana Chawla astronaut start her career?

She entered the American space program in 1995 and flew millions of kilometers in space on two spacecraft missions, floating in space hundreds of times.