This chapter is about the rise and fall of Kalpana Chawla, The world's first Indian-American woman in space. She was a small-town girl from Haryana who had studied aeronautical engineering. She went to the USA for her masters in Aerospace Engineering and became a flight instructor. She became an American citizen by getting married to Jean-Pierre Harrison, a fellow flight instructor. Her next steps to ascension after completing her doctorate in Aerospace engineering was to apply to NASA. NASA hired her as a research scientist, following which she had applied for the space shuttle programme and received training to become an astronaut
Her first mission was to conduct experiments with her crew while orbiting the earth on "The Columbia". The experiments involved Biology, Metallurgy, and semiconductor electronics. The mission lasted around \(16\) days, the entire crew had circled the globe over \(250\) times travelling a distance of about \(10.5\) million kilometres and collected a lot of valuable data.
But tragedy struck her crew when they had ventured to outer space on their second trip on-board the same Columbia which burst into flames while returning and had crashed in Texas. The shuttle had lost contact at over \(200,000\) feet while returning, there were no survivors, and it was a great loss as some of the best space scientists, had perished in the accident. The whole world mourned their loss.
Kalpana Chawla is a national hero and a shining star in her field of Aerospace Engineering. She had mentioned that gender is never an obstacle to achieve greatness. Her message was that the pathway to one's dreams exist and they must have the courage to achieve greatness with hard work and determination.