May 29, 2024

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The story of Kalpana Chawla that you have never heard before

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‘When you look at the stars and the galaxy, you feel that you are not just from a particular piece of land, but from the solar system, I am made for space, every moment spent for space and will die for it .’

These words belong to Kalpana Chawla, the first woman of Indian origin to go into space. Whose family came to India from Multan after partition, and who herself settled in America. But during this entire life cycle, he illuminated the name of the country of India.

life of imagination

India became independent in the year 1947, from the British rule. Pakistan was formed this year. That is, this was the year of Partition. At the time of partition, many families also moved from one country to another. One of these families was also of Banarasi Lal Chawla, who lived in Multan, Pakistan. But due to the partition, Karnal had come to Haryana. Then settled here.

Banarasi was a very hardworking man. Earlier, he used to sell clothes to run the house, and also used to do many small jobs. Later he started the business of making tires. His wife used to look after the household chores. Both had four children. On March 17, 1962, the youngest daughter was born. Named ‘Monto’.

Monto was a very sweet child. He loved airplanes. As a child, she used to dream of flying among the stars. There was a different gleam in his eyes. There was a different feeling. This passion and this dream of flying in the sky, made Monto one day Kalpana Chawla. And this same Monto later became the first Indian woman to go into space. And the second Indian after Rakesh Sharma.

Story of Monto aka Kalpana Chawla-

Now Banarasi did not give any formal name to his youngest child. His name was Monto. When she grew up a little, it was her turn to get admission in the school. An aunt went to Tagore Bal Niketan School in Karnal with Monto. There the principal asked what to be named. Aunt then told that Monto has three names – Jyotsna, Sunaina and Kalpana. But no decision has been taken on which of the three to be named. The principal asked Monto what name she wanted to name. Monto said that although he likes all three names, but Kalpana likes him the most. Because it means imagination. And Monto loved to imagine flying in the sky. Then what. On the first day of school, Monto’s name became Kalpana Chawla. At that time no one would have thought that this girl would travel to space later.

In school, when it came time to draw. All the children would make pictures of the same mountains and rivers. Kalpana would have made a picture of an airplane over those mountains and rivers. Even on the walls of the class, in a jiffy, she used to make a geographical map of India. From the beginning there was an inclination towards science. In summer, when the family members slept on the terrace, little Kalpana would wake up in the night, looking at the stars.

Well, after completing school, he did B.Tech from Punjab Engineering College. Then went to America to study masters in aerospace engineering. He also completed Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas in 1984. Then did another masters and did Ph.D. Whenever I used to talk about my career with my friends, I would say, ‘One day I will also fly’

Kalpana had dreamed of flying since childhood. And also worked very hard to fulfill it. After completing his studies, he started working with NASA in 1988. Then shifted to America itself. In 1991, he also got American citizenship. Then ‘NASA’ became part of the Astronaut Corps. For the first time in 1997, I got a chance to go on a space mission. She became a part of ‘NASA’s Space Shuttle Program.

Before proceeding, let’s talk a little about the space shuttle program. One of the programs of NASA is ‘Human Spaceflight’. Under this program, some people are sent to space through spacecraft in a group. for some research. So the Space Shuttle program was also a human spaceflight program. The fourth was the Human Spaceflight Program. The 88th mission of this fourth program was Columbia Flight STS-87. Kalpana Chawla became a part of it. This was Kalpana’s first space mission. She went on this mission in 1997 with her 5 astronaut companions. Traveled 10.4 million miles. Earth made 252 revolutions. The first mission was successful.

Then Kalpana went on her second space mission in the year 2003. The mission was Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107. It was the 113th mission of the Space Shuttle program. STS-107 left Earth on January 16, 2003. Kalpana was once again in space. The return was on 1 February 2003 i.e. on this day. Kalpana was about to return. This was the biggest news of that day on TV. Columbia STS-107 also returned to Earth, but in more than 80,000 pieces.

Why did this accident happen?

On the day of STS-107’s launch, i.e. January 16, 2003, a piece of ‘foam insulation’ from the outer tank of the Space Shuttle was broken. Due to which the left wing of the orbiter was greatly affected. There was a hole in it, due to which atmospheric gas pressure started coming inside the shuttle.

According to a 2008 book by space journalists Michael Cabbage and William Harwood, there were many people inside NASA who wanted to take pictures of the broken wing. It is said that NASA’s Defense Department was ready to use its Orbital Spy Camera for a closer look. But the top officials of NASA refused for this. And the landing went ahead without any investigation.

Some engineers believe that this damage was a huge damage to the Space Shuttle. NASA managers said that if the crew knew the problem, they could have fixed it.

On February 1, 2003, the shuttle was to land at the Kennedy Space Center. Just before 9 a.m., unusual readings were noted by Mission Control. The left wing sensor did not provide temperature readings and then, the tire pressure readings on the left side of the shuttle also disappeared.

NASA’s space communicator wanted to contact Columbia about tire pressure readings, and Rick Husband called back from Columbia at exactly 8:59:32 in the morning. Just one word of the sentence he spoke was clearly heard, – “Roger”.

At that time, Colombia was near the city of Dallas in the US state of Texas, at a speed 18 times the speed of sound and at an altitude of 61,170 meters above the ground. Mission Control made several attempts to contact Kalpana and her fellow astronauts. But did not get success.

Twelve minutes later, when Columbia should have been on the runway. Mission Control got a call. The caller said that a TV channel is showing a video of the shuttle breaking in the sky.

NASA declared it a contingency, sent people to find the debris. And announced the disappearance of the astronauts.

Sean O’Keefe, then NASA’s administrator, said,

‘This is truly a sad day for the NASA family, for the families of the astronauts who flew on STS-107, and for this nation’

The search for the wreckage took weeks, as it was scattered over an area of ​​about 2,000 square miles (5,180 square kilometers) in eastern Texas alone. Eventually NASA recovered 84,000 pieces of the shuttle, which was just 40 percent of Columbia’s by weight. Among these 84,000 fragments were also the remains of Kalpana and the rest of her companions, who were identified with DNA.

What did NASA say?

On 30 December 2008, NASA released a 400-page investigation report about this accident.

As soon as the Space Shuttle entered Earth’s atmosphere before 9 a.m. on February 1, hot gases from the atmosphere entered the spacecraft’s inner wing structure.

According to the report, Kalpana and her associates had very little time. It took just 40 seconds between the shuttle losing control and the cabin pressure deteriorating. The crew also could not respond because they were late in putting on their space suits.

According to the report, one of the members of Columbia STS-107 was not wearing a pressure suit helmet while three people were not wearing their spacesuit gloves. But this mistake of the crew has nothing to do with the Colombian crash. The design of Columbia’s seats also reduced the chances of the crew’s survival, and their helmets were also inappropriate for the head, resulting in severe injuries.

The report says, “Although the cabin circulatory system worked briefly, the depressurization was so severe that the crew could not regain consciousness. And finally he died due to high altitude and trauma.

However, Mission Columbia program manager Wayne Hale said in 2013 that it was only when the wing broke that NASA scientists knew that Kalpana and the rest of the crew could no longer return alive. He did not want the crew to suffocate on their last day, he thought it better that they should be happy till the time of the accident.

According to Wayne Hale, even if the astronauts knew about this, they could not do anything, they could go round the space until the oxygen was exhausted, the life would have been lost when the oxygen was exhausted.

NASA did not comment on this statement of Wayne Hale, while Kalpana’s father rejected it.

According to, there were 6 other people with Kalpana in Colombia – first name Rick Husband. He was the commander of this mission. Michael Anderson was the payload commander. Apart from Kalpana Chawla, David Browne and Laurel Clarke were mission specialists, William McCool was the pilot and Ian Ramon was the payload specialist.

Including the first and second space missions, Kalpana spent a total of 30 days, 14 hours and 54 minutes in space. She often used to say,

‘I was made for space. Every moment is spent for space, and will die for this only.


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