Published: 01st February 2021
#ThrowBackToday: How the world mourned the death of astronaut Kalpana Chawla and her brilliance
In today's #TBT, we remember the first woman of Indian-origin to travel to space, Kalpana Chawla. When she flew aboard the space-rated orbiter Columbia the second time, it was the last time she did so
On February 1, 2003, the mighty Columbia, USA's space-rated orbiter, had completed its 27th mission and was on its way back. It was a mere 61.170 metres away from Dallas, US. The seven astronomers aboard were elated to be getting back to Earth after 16 long days of toiling away, conducting as many as 80 experiments in fluid physics, material science and other matters, in space. But they couldn't touchdown as the shuttle disintegrated and with it, the world lost seven able astronomers. Among them was India's own daughter, Kalpana Chawla. She was the first woman of Indian-origin to travel to space.
Born in Karnal, Haryana, Chawla immigrated to the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave to pursue her dreams of Aerospace Engineering and started working with NASA in 1988. She flew aboard Columbia before as well, and it was after her first trip that she said, "When you look at the stars and the galaxy, you feel that you are not just from any particular piece of land, but from the solar system." But it was the second time around that was her last time. The point to note is that during the launch itself, a sizable piece of insulation broke and damaged the shield that protects the shuttle's wing from reheating while reentry. Hence, several investigations were launched, heads rolled and America said, 'Never again!'
Though Chawla was born in India, she is seen as a role model across the world for her grit and determination. The University of Texas even launched a Kalpana Chawla memorial. Just last year, NASA launched a spacecraft named after her.
READ ALSO: NASA's resupply mission honouring Kalpana Chawla on way to ISS
A bullet, fired by a South Vietnamese general, ramming into the skull of a helpless handcuffed prisoner — such is the description of the most powerful shot of the Vietnam War taken by Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams on February 1, 1968. And in the millisecond he took it, the picture encapsulated the endless war perfectly. And because the picture featured on the front page of almost every US newspaper, it went a long way in ending the US' involvement in the war.