An Indian-American Woman in Space: Kalpana Chawla – Summary

In 1997, an Indian-American, Kalpana Chawla,was part of the international crew aboard the U.S. Space Shuttle, Columbia, becoming the first woman born in India to go into space. Sadly, the second mission in Columbia ended in tragedy.


Kalpana Chawla was the first Indian-American girl, to go into space in 1997. Kalpana was born in Karnal, Haryana. She graduated as an aeronautical engineer in India and then went to the United States for a Master’s degree.

Kalpana was married to flight instructor Jean-Pierre Harrison. She was a qualified pilot and also a certified flight instructor. In 1994, she was selected as an astronaut.

Kalpana Chawla’s first space mission in the space shuttle ‘Columbia’ lasted for about 16 days. The crew performed many experiments in space. But while returning to earth, the space shuttle ‘Columbia’ carrying Kalpana and her crew met with a tragedy. It broke apart in flames on Saturday, 1 February, 2003 killing all aboard. There was shock and disbelief in her home town.

Kalpana Chawla gave a message to students of her college in Chandigarh. She said, “The path from dreams to success does exist. May you have the vision to find it, the courage to get on to it…. wishing you a great journey.”

Kalpana Chawla was a brave and intelligent girl. Her achievements are an inspiration to millions of young Indians.