Kalpana Chawla was born in Karnal (Haryana) in 1961 to Banarasi Lal Chawla and Sanjyothi. Her interest in flying was inspired by J. R. D. Tata, a pioneering Indian aviator and industrialist. Chawla has two sisters, Sunita and Deepa, and a brother, Sanjay. Being the youngest the family members gave her the nickname "Montu." In 1983, she met and married Jean-Pierre Harrison, a flying instructor and aviation writer. She became a US citizen in 1990. Her motto was: Follow your dreams, and the brave heart fulfilled it.  Education
Chawla completed her earlier schooling at Tagore Public School, Karnal. She earned her Bachelor of Engineering B.E degree in aeronautical engineering at Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh in 1982. She moved to the United States in 1982 and obtained a M.S. degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1984. Chawla went on to earn a second M.S. degree in 1986 and a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering in 1988 from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Later that year she began working for NASA as vice president of Overset Methods, Inc. where she did CFD research on Vertical/Short Takeoff and Landing. Chawla held a Certificated Flight Instructor rating for airplanes, gliders and Commercial Pilot licenses for single and multi-engine airplanes, seaplanes and gliders. She held an FCC issued Technician Class Amateur Radio license.  NASA career
Kalpana Chawla joined the NASA astronaut corps in March 1995 and was selected for her first flight in 1998. She spoke the following words while travelling 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 person of Indian origin to fly in space, following cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma who flew in 1984 in a Soviet spacecraft. On her first mission Chawla travelled 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, Kalpana was assigned to technical positions in the astronaut office, 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 2002 discovery of cracks in the shuttle engine flow liners. On January 16, 2003, Chawla finally returned to space aboard Columbia on the ill-fated STS-107 mission. Chawla's responsibilities included the microgravity experiments, for which the crew conducted nearly 80 experiments studying earth and space science, advanced technology development, and astronaut health and safety.  Death
Kalpana died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster which occurred on February 1, 2003, when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere, with the loss of all seven crew members, shortly before it was...