On February 1, 2003, as the world waited for the return of the Space Shuttle Columbia flight STS-107, it disintegrated over Texas during its re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. The disaster killed a seven-member crew including Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian woman to have been to space.
Now, Seventeen years later, her father, Banarasi Lal Chawla, says that Kalpana had one dream only – that no child, especially girls, should ever be deprived of education. Chawla opens up about his daughter, whom he lovingly called ‘Mantu’, in a new docu-series for National Geographic, Mega Icons. Ecstatic about the documentary, the proud father believes that the more people get to know who his daughter really was, the more they’ll aspire to become like her.
Kalpana, who was born in Karnal, started working at the NASA Ames Research Center in 1988. In 1997, she became the first Indian woman and second Indian to fly to space in her flight on the Space Shuttle Columbia. In 2000, Kalpana was selected for her second flight as a part of the crew of STS-107 but it turned out to be her last. Kalpana was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, NASA Space Flight Medal and NASA Distinguished Service Medal.
In order to honour her, NASA named one of its spacecraft after Kalpana Chawla. The resupply spacecraft reached the International Space station (ISS) this week, carrying nearly 8,000 pounds of scientific investigations.
“Kalpana was about three or four years old when she first saw a plane. She had been playing on the rooftop when she saw a plane flying above our house. She seemed so excited. I took her to the flying club near our house where a pilot agreed to take us for a ride. Kalpana’s joys knew no bounds. She had always wanted to fly,” the astronaut’s father Banarasi Lal Chawla told News18.
Chawla added that his daughter had an ‘indomitable spirit’