5. Kalpana’s first space mission in the space shuttle, Columbia, was 15 days,16 hours and 34 minutes long. During this time she went around the earth 252 times, travelling 10.45 million kilometres! The crew included a Japanese and a Ukranian astronaut. The crew performed experiments such as pollinating plants to observe food growth in space, and tests for making stronger metals and faster computer chips — all for a price tag of about 56 million dollars.
6. On the Saturday night when the news about the Columbia disaster broke, there was shock and disbelief. The town of Karnal spent a sleepless night as thousands of households stayed glued to their television sets in the hope that Kalpana and the crew had somehow survived.
After becoming an astronaut, Kalpana was selected as one of the members to conduct a space-orbiting trip around the earth. The mission also consisted of a Japanese and a Ukrainian astronaut out of six crew members. Her first trip to outer space had lasted for \(15\) days, \(16\) hours, and \(34\) minutes, during this time, she had travelled an impressive \(10.45\) million kilometres, circling the globe \(252\) times!
This was a trip that would enable us, humans, to take giant leaps in understanding the space around our planet and its characteristics and conditions required for human/plant survival. The six member crew were highly trained and experienced scientists who were given strict training to withstand the harsh conditions of space.
Being scientists, they also conducted various experiments in space to determine the conditions needed for living. From food growth through pollination to exploring multiple aspects of metallurgy and electronics, the data collected by Kalpana and her crew was vital for advancement in multiple areas of science.
Space pollination.jpg
Space scientists at work (Image for illustrative purposes only)
Unfortunately, all was not well as the world was immersed in tragedy when the people heard that the Columbia, which was inbound for earth had streaked across the Texan skies and burst into flames, killing seven of the most knowledgeable minds in NASA at the time. Americans and Indians alike were struck dumb with grief and disbelief as the town of Karnal spent a sleepless night grieving the loss of Kalpana Chawla. The fact that their national hero, inspiration and icon had perished in such a terrible accident was not a light burden to bear as the entire village was immersed in sorrow due to the unfortunate loss of one of their greatest examples for the future generations.
Tragedy strikes as the Columbia crash in Texan soil (Image for illustrative purposes only)
Meanings of difficult words:
Ukranian A citizen of Ukraine, a Baltic nation in Europe.
The act of transferring pollen grains which helps in plant growth.
PerishTo die a horrible death.
Material source: National Council of Educational Research and Training (2006). Honeysuckle. An Indian - American Woman in Space: Kalpana Chawla (pp. 45-53). Published at the Publication Division by the Secretary, National Council of Educational Research and Training, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi.