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This Day in History: Apollo 1 Bursts into Flames, Killing 3 American Astronauts

All three American astronauts on board died in the fire: Lt. Col. Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Lt. Col. Edward White II and Roger B. Chaffee

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In this undated photo made available by NASA, (L-R), veteran astronaut Virgil Grissom, first American spacewalker Ed White and rookie Roger Chaffee, stand for a photograph in Cape Kennedy, Florida, today Cape Canaveral. VOA
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US, Jan 27, 2017: Fifty years ago today, January 27, 1967, tragedy struck NASA’s proposed first manned flight of the Apollo capsule when a fire engulfed the craft during a routine test on the launchpad.

All three American astronauts on board died in the fire: Lt. Col. Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Lt. Col. Edward White II and Roger B. Chaffee.

The tragedy stunned the nation, and it temporarily stalled NASA’s push to meet then-president John F. Kennedy’s deadline to reach the lunar surface by the end of the decade

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A NASA probe and congressional hearings concluded previously unidentified fire hazards existed inside the capsule, and the subsequent decision to pressurize it entirely with oxygen created an extremely combustible environment. The hatch opened inward, which made it difficult for the crew to open it and escape.

After the deadly accident, hundreds of changes to the capsule were made, and NASA instituted myriad safety procedures. The redesigned capsules used a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen, reducing the fire risk. A new hatch was designed that could be opened in just five seconds.

Only 21 months later, NASA sent humans back into space aboard Apollo 7. And less than a year after that, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed Apollo 11 on the moon.

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To mark the 50th anniversary, NASA is holding a ceremony, which will be broadcast live on NASA television. (VOA)

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Kalpana Chawala: The Woman Who Made The Difference

Kalpana’s dream break to fly in space came in November 1997, aboard the space shuttle Columbia on flight STS-87

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The forename Kalpana denotes
The forename Kalpana denotes "idea" or "imagination." Wikimedia Commons
  • Kalpana Chawla continues to be an inspirational force for youth all-over, especially girls
  • Kalpana Chawla earned a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado in 1988
  • In the year 2000, Chawla was selected for her second voyage into space, serving again as a mission specialist on STS-107

Kalpana Chawala is one of the inspiring personality and an Ideal for numerous people, it’s been 18 years since her passing, but Indo-American astronaut, Kalpana Chawla continues to be an inspirational force for youth all-over, especially girls. Born in Karnal-Punjab, Kalpana overcame all odds and fulfilled her dream of reaching for the stars.

Kalpana achieved a grade in aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College before immigrating to the United States and becoming a naturalized citizen in the 1980s. She earned a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado in 1988, having previously obtained her master’s degree from the University of Texas. She began working at NASA’s Ames Research Center the same year, working on power-lift computational fluid dynamics.

In 1994, Kalpana was selected as an astronaut candidate. She was appointed as a crew representative for the Astronaut Office EVA/Robotics and Computer Branches after a year of training, where she worked with Robotic Situational Awareness Displays and tested software for the space shuttles.

kalpana chawala’s Death was a very uncertain demise of one of the finest astronaut the world ever had.

In 1988, Kalpana’s dream of joining NASA finally came true. Wikimedia Commons
In 1988, Kalpana’s dream of joining NASA finally came true. Wikimedia Commons

Early life: Kalpana Chawala was born on March 17, 1962, in Karnal, Haryana. Born into a middle-class family, she completed her schooling from Tagore Baal Niketan Senior Secondary School, Karnal and her B.Tech in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College at Chandigarh, India in 1982.

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Kalpana Chawala was the youngest of four children in her family. The forename Kalpana denotes “idea” or “imagination.” Her full name is pronounced CULL-puh-na CHAV-la, though she often went by the nickname K.C.

Journey in the United States: To fulfil her desire of becoming an astronaut, Kalpana aimed to join NASA and moved to the United States in 1982. She obtained a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1984 and a second Master’s in 1986. She then earned a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Wedding bells: There’s always time for romance. In 1983, Kalpana tied the knot with Jean-Pierre Harrison, a flying instructor and an aviation author.

Work at NASA: In 1988, Kalpana’s dream of joining NASA finally came true. For the position of Vice President of Overset Methods, Kalpana Chawala was appointed at NASA Research Center and was later assigned to do Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) research on Vertical/Short Takeoff and Landing concepts.

Kalpana’s dream break to fly in space came in November 1997, aboard the space shuttle Columbia on flight STS-87. The space shuttle made 252 orbits of the Earth in just over two weeks. The space aircraft completed a number of experiments and observing tools on its trip, including a Spartan satellite, which Chawla deployed from the shuttle. The satellite, which studied the outer layer of the sun, malfunctioned due to software errors, and two other astronauts from the shuttle had to perform a spacewalk to recapture it.

Also Read: Facts about Miss Universe 2017, Manushi Chhillar you didn’t know before

Kalpana Chawala Rocket Crash

In the year 2000, Chawala was selected for her second voyage into space, serving again as a mission specialist on STS-107. The mission was delayed several times and finally launched in 2003. Over the course of the 16-day flight, the crew completed more than 80 experiments.

In 1994, Chawla was selected as an astronaut candidate. She was appointed as a crew representative for the Astronaut Office EVA/Robotics and Computer Branches after a year of training. Wikimedia Commons
In 1994, Chawla was selected as an astronaut candidate. She was appointed as a crew representative for the Astronaut Office EVA/Robotics and Computer Branches after a year of training. Wikimedia Commons

On the morning of Feb. 1, 2003, the space shuttle returned to Earth, intending to land at Kennedy Space Center. At launch, a briefcase-sized piece of insulation had broken off and damaged the thermal protection system of the shuttle’s wing, the shield that protects it from heat during re-entry. When the aircraft moved through the atmosphere, hot gas streaming into the wing caused it to break up. The unstable craft rolled and bucked, pitching the astronauts about. Less than a minute passed before the ship depressurized killing the crew. The shuttle broke up over Texas and Louisiana before plunging into the ground. This incident was the second major disaster for the space shuttle program, following the 1986 explosion of the shuttle Challenge.

In the disastrous damage of the space shuttle, Columbia took the lives of seven astronauts. One of those, Kalpana Chawla, was the first Indian-born woman in space.