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Chawla Class (Year 1)

Kapana Chawla PhD

Kalpana Chawla was born and educated in India. After visiting a flying club with her father, Chawla developed an interest in aviation and learned to fly. She later obtained a degree in aeronautical engineering despite others' attempts to dissuade her from doing so because she was a woman. Adamant that she would pursue a career in this field, Chawla moved to the USA in the 1980s to continued her studies, achieving a MA and PhD in aerospace engineering by 1988.


After becoming a NASA astronaut and mechanical engineer, Chawla became the first Indian woman in space, logging 30 days, 14 hours, and 54 minutes in space between two missions aboard the space shuttle 'Columbia'. Sadly, Chawla's second mission was also her last. When the space shuttle returned to Earth, it decompressed and broke up before plunging into the ground, killing all of the crew members. 


Chawla was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, the NASA Space Flight Medal, and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal and her achievements have inspired women in India and around the world to consider careers in space and engineering.


Find out more about Kalpana Chawla here: Kalpana Chawla