'Kalpana Chawla' ( July 1 , 1961 - February 1 , 2003 ) was an Indian-American astronaut and space shuttle mission specialist of STS-107 ( Columbia ) who was killed when the craft disintegrated after reentry into the Earth's atmosphere . Early Life Chawla was born in Karnal , Haryana , India . Her interest in flight was inspired by J. R. D. Tata , India's first pilot. Education Chawla studied aeronautical engineering at the Punjab Engineering College in 1982 where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree. Thereafter she moved to the United States to obtain a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from University of Texas ( 1984 ). Dr. Chawla earned a doctorate in aerospace engineering from University of Colorado in 1988 . That same year she began working for NASA 's Ames Research Center . Kalpana Chawla became a naturalized USA citizen, and married Jean-Pierre Harrison, a freelance flying instructor. Chawla held a certified flight instructor's license with airplane and glider ratings, and has commercial pilot's licenses for single and multiengine land and seaplanes. NASA Career Dr. Chawla entered NASA's astronaut program in 1994 and was selected for flight in 1996 . Chawla's first mission to space began on November 19 , 1997 as part of the 6 astronaut crew that flew the Space Shuttle Columbia Flight STS-87 . Chawla was the first Indian-born woman in space, as well as the first Indian-American in space. (She was the second person from India to fly into space, after cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma who went into space in 1984 in a Soviet spacecraft.) On her first mission Chawla travelled over 6.5 million miles in 252 orbits of the earth, logging more than 375 hours in space. During STS-87, she was responsible for deploying the Spartan Satellite which malfunctioned forcing two other astronauts to go on a spacewalk to capture the solar satellite. A five-month NASA investigation blamed the error on the flight crew and ground control. She was...
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