Indian-origin astronaut Kalpana Chawla, one of the seven crew members killed when space shuttle Columbia broke apart while returning to Earth on February 1, 2003, was remembered by US President Donald Trump on Monday for her contribution.
Born in India on March 17, 1962, Kalpana Chawla became the first woman of Indian origin in space when she first flew on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997 as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator. In her second mission in 2003, Chawla and six other NASA crew members died when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated during its re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.
After her graduation in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh,Kalpana Chawla went to the United States in 1982 for her MS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering in 1988 from the University of Colorado Boulder, before starting her illustrious career as a NASA scientist-cum-astronaut.
Issuing an official directive announcing the month of May 2018 as an 'Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month', Trump said: "Indian American Kalpana Chawla was the first woman of Indian descent to fly in space, and became an American hero for her devotion to the Space Shuttle programme and its various missions transporting cargo and crew to and from the International Space Station."
He recalled how Kalpana Chawla inspired millions of youngsters and called her an American hero. He said that she was awarded the US Congressional Space Medal of Honour posthumously. US space agency NASA also bestowed the NASA Space Flight Medal and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal upon Chawla posthumously.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientist-astronaut Chawla was also awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honour posthumously by the US Congress.
"Miss Chawla's courage and passion continue to serve as an inspiration for millions of American girls who dream of one day becoming astronauts," said Trump."Through their industriousness and love of country, our nation has enjoyed the privileges and enrichment of multiple innovations and societal advancements."
More than 20 million Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders are currently living in the United States and Trump highlighted their hard work, honesty, and allegiance to the ideals of 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness'.
"For these reasons, America cherishes its connections with the Indo-Pacific region, which shares an appreciation for these principles, he asserted. Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage help to reinforce these relationships, which are stronger today than ever before," he said.