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Remembering Kalpana Chawla's second and last flight: Columbia flight STS-107

It was on January 16, 2003, when the Indian American astronaut Kalpana Chawla took her second and last flight to the space in Space Shuttle Columbia flight STS-107 before it disintegrated over Texas during its re-entry into the earth's atmosphere.

India TV News Desk India TV News Desk
New Delhi Published on: January 16, 2020 14:27 IST
Kalpana Chawla, columbia, NASA, Space Shuttle,
Image Source : NASA

Kalpana Chawla with her crew members 

It was on January 16, 2003, when Indian American astronaut Kalpana Chawla took her second and last flight to the space in Space Shuttle Columbia flight STS-107, before it disintegrated over Texas during its re-entry into the earth's atmosphere. It's been 17 years since the famous NASA astronaut passed away, and still, she continues to inspire many young minds, especially girls. 

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Image Source : NASA

The STS-107 crewmembers pose for their traditional in-flight crew portrait in the SPACEHAB Research Double Module (RDM) aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia taken between Jan. 16 and Feb. 1, 2003, in space.

The Columbia Space Shuttle, with 7 astronauts on board including Kalpana Chawla - the first Indian women to go to space, took its flight from Kennedy space center in Florida on January 16, 2003. The space mission during its 15 days, 22 hours, 20 minutes, 32 seconds in orbit conducted a multitude of international scientific experiments.

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Image Source : NASA

NASA video shot by Shuttle Mission Specialist Laurel Clark shows Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla, left, and Commander Rick Husband on the flight deck of the Space Shuttle Columbia shortly before reentry, Feb. 1, 2003, while in space.

Along with Chawla, Commander Rick D Husband, Pilot William C McCool, David M Brown, Michael P Anderson, Laurel B Clark, and Ilan Ramon were on board. During the launch of the Columbia spacecraft, a piece of foam broke off during launch, damaging the thermal protection system on the leading edge of the orbiter's left-wing. 

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Image Source : NASA

Columbia flight STS-107 after re-entering in the earth's atmosphere

After the space expedition, the Columbia spacecraft was scheduled to land on the earth's surface on February 1 after a 16-day mission. During the re-entry the damaged wing slowly overheated and came apart, eventually leading to loss of control and disintegration of the vehicle. The damage allowed hot atmospheric gases to penetrate the heat shield and destroy the internal wing structure, which caused the spacecraft to become unstable and break apart.

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Image Source : NASA

Space Shuttle Columbia sits on Launch Pad 39A, Jan. 15, 2003, at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral.

All seven crew members who died during the spacecraft tried to re-enter the earth's atmosphere. 

Right after the disaster, NASA had set up the Columbia Accident Investigation Board to determine the cause of the disintegration. 

India lost its daughter and one of its brilliant minds in NASA's space mission. Space scientist Kalpana Chawla was born in Karnal, Haryana, and immigrated to the US  in 1982 after finishing her degree in aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College. She obtained a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1984.

Chawla went on to earn a second Masters in 1986 and a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering in 1988 from the University of Colorado Boulder. She became the first Indian woman to fly in space after her first space mission began on November 19, 1997. She was among the six astronaut crew that flew the Space Shuttle Columbia flight STS-87.

She had spent 336 hours in space during the research mission. 

ALSO READ | Kalpana Chawla used to say, someday she'd be 'kidnapped' in outer space: Father

ALSO READ | US President Trump hails Indian-origin astronaut Kalpana Chawla as 'American hero'

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