Remembering Kalpana Chawla: Woman who inspired India's Sirisha Bandla to dream and soar high
The Virgin Space Ship Unity spaceplane, which is all set to launch today, is an important feat for humans. While other parts of the world have their reasons to celebrate Virgin Galactic's achievement, one of India's reasons is Sirisha Bandla. With her roots in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, Bandla will be the second woman India-born woman to fly into space after Kalpana Chawla.
Serving as the Vice President of Government Affairs at Virgin Galactic, Bandla is an aeronautical engineer who will be part of billionaire Richard Branson's crew. Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity will take off from New Mexico.
With her feat, Bandla will become the third Indian-origin woman to fly into space after Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams. She will also become the second India-born woman after Kalpana Chawla to fly into space.
Kalpana Chawla's journey from Karnal to space
Born in Karnal, Chawla scaled several heights and continues to be an inspiration for Indian women across the world. After completing her bachelor's in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab, Chawla moved to the United States in 1962 at the age of 20 and obtained a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering.
Chawla became a naturalised US citizen in 1991 and applied to be part of NASA's Astronaut Corps. Soon, she signed her first space mission took place and along with the STS-87 crew of 6 astronauts, she left for space on November 18, 1997. She later signed up for her second space mission in 2001, after she was selected for the STS-107 crew.
Chawla, who once said, "I am made for space only. Every moment is spent for space and I will die for it ", breathed her last on February 1, 2003, 16 minutes before the scheduled landing, of Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107. The space shuttle crashed during its entry over the southern United States.
As the world lauds Bandla, we must also remember Chawla, a woman who opened gateways of space for women all across the world and proved that with passion, anything is possible.