|Kalpana Chawla (July 1, 1961 - February 1, 2003), was an Indian-born American astronaut and space shuttle mission specialist. She was lost aboard Space Shuttle Columbia on mission STS-107 when it disintegrated during reentry into the Earth's atmosphere.
Chawla was born in Karnal, Punjab, now in Haryana, India. Her interest in flight was inspired by J. R. D. Tata, a pioneering Indian pilot. Chawla studied aeronautical engineering at Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh, India, in 1982 where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree. Thereafter she moved to the United States to obtain a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington (1984).
Chawla earned a second Master of Science degree in 1986 and Ph.D. in aerospace engineering in 1988 from the University of Colorado. Later that same year she began working for NASA Ames Research Center. Kalpana Chawla alias Ruchi married Jean-Pierre Harrison in 1982 and became a naturalized United States citizen in 1990. Chawla held a Certificated Flight Instructor rating for airplanes and gliders and Commercial Pilot licenses for single and multiengine airplanes, seaplanes and gliders. She is posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, the NASA Space Flight Medal, and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. Dr. Kalpana Chawla became the first Indian born Astronaut in 1997.