President Bush Honors Columbia Astronaut in India
President George W. Bush paid tribute to fallen Columbia astronaut Dr. Kalpana Chawla today during a speech in her native India.
Image left: President Bush during his speech to India. White House photo by Paul Morse.
"On a sad morning three years ago," said the President, "we learned that a brave astronaut born in India had been lost aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia. I know that India will always be proud of Dr. Kalpana Chawla, and so will the United States of America." President Bush also praised Indian Americans in Congress and the military, and said the U.S. and India are working together to expand prosperity and advance freedom in the world.
+ Read The Full Speech at www.whitehouse.gov
+ Fact Sheet on U.S.- India Space Cooperation
Kalpana Chawla's path to become an astronaut began in Karnal, India.
"None of our astronauts traveled a longer path to space than Kalpana Chawla," President Bush said at a 2003 memorial service. "She left India as a student but she would see the nation of her birth, all of it, from hundreds of miles above."
Chawla -- known to her friends as "K.C." -- knew that she wanted to be an aerospace engineer at an early age. She was influenced by watching the planes from the local flying clubs and by her father.
"Every once in a while," Chawla said, "we'd ask my dad if we could get a ride in one of these planes. And, he did take us to the flying club and get us a ride in the Pushpak and a glider that the flying club had."
Image right: Astronaut Dr. Kalpana Chawla. Photo Credit: NASA.
She graduated from Tagore School, Karnal, India, in 1976 and received a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering from India's Punjab Engineering College in 1982.
Then, she moved to the United States to go to graduate school at the University of Texas-Arlington, where she received a master's degree in aerospace engineering in 1984. Then, she moved to Boulder, Colo., to pursue a doctorate in aerospace engineering, which she received in 1988.
Her career with NASA began in 1988 when she went to work for the Ames Research Center in California. Chawla's work at Ames centered on powered-lift computational fluid dynamics, which involves aircraft like the Harrier.
After a brief career outside NASA, she returned as an astronaut candidate in December 1994.
Her first flight was STS-87, the fourth U.S Microgravity Payload flight, on Space Shuttle Columbia from Nov. 19 to Dec. 5, 1997.
She returned to space in Jan. 16, 2003, aboard Columbia for a 16-day research flight. The STS-107 crew conducted more than 80 experiments.
Chawla and her six STS-107 crewmates perished Feb. 1, 2003, over Texas as Columbia was re-entering Earth's atmosphere.
During an STS-107 preflight interview, she was asked who inspired her. She responded that she was motivated by people who are giving it their all.
"I think inspiration and tied with it is motivation," she said. "For me, definitely, it comes every day from people in all walks of life. It's easy for me to be motivated and inspired by seeing somebody who just goes all out to do something."