Kalpana Chawla: Destined For The Stars

kalpana : any desire of the present or future, also refers to imagination or fantasy.

“I pretty much had my dreams, like anybody else and I followed them. People around me fortunately always encouraged and said ‘if that’s what you want to do carry on’.” Kalpana Chawla , just prior to leaving on her last mission.

Kalpana ChawlaIT IS EASY to spot Kalpana Chawla in pre-flight pictures of the ill-fated Columbia shuttle mission. While her crewmates looked snug in their lumpy orange suits, Kalpana looked like hers was two sizes too large.

Her smallish frame belied the credentials of a career astronaut who, until Saturday’s tragedy, seemed destined to reach greater heights in NASA’s male-dominated hierarchy.

At 41, Kalpana held a doctorate in aerospace engineering, a commercial pilot’s licence, a flight instructor’s licence, had racked up seven years of experience at the distinguished NASA Ames Research Center and as vice president of a private research company.

On her first shuttle mission in 1997, she had logged 376 hours and 34 minutes in space, exceeding even the celebrated first American woman in space — Sally Ride.

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