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Kalpana Chawla (July 1, 1961 – February 1, 2003) was an Indian-American astronaut who, was a mission specialist on the space shuttle Columbia. She first flew on the Columbia in 1997 as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator. Chawla was one of seven crew members killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. -------------------------------------------------
Chawla joined the NASA 'Astronaut Corps' in March 1995 and was selected for her first flight in 1996. She spoke the following words while traveling in the weightlessness of space, "You are just your intelligence". She had traveled 10.4 million km, as many as 252 times around the Earth. Her first space mission began on November 19, 1997 as part of the six-astronaut crew that flew the Space Shuttle Columbia flight STS-87. Chawla was the first Indian-born woman and the second Indian person to fly in space, following cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma who flew in 1984 in a spacecraft. On her first mission Chawla traveled over 10.4 million miles in 252 orbits of the earth, logging more than 372 hours in space. During STS-87, she was responsible for deploying the Spartan Satellite which malfunctioned, necessitating a spacewalk by Winston Scott and Takao Doi to capture the satellite. A five-month NASA investigation fully exonerated Chawla by identifying errors in software interfaces and the defined procedures of flight crew and ground control. After the completion of STS-87 post-flight activities, Chawla was assigned to technical positions in the astronaut office to work on the space station, her performance in which was recognized with a special award from her peers.
Chawla in the space shuttle simulator
In 2000 she was selected for her second flight as part of the crew of STS-107. This mission was repeatedly delayed due to scheduling conflicts and technical problems such as the July...