Kalpana Chawla was the first person of Indian origin to fly in space when she was a mission specialist on the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997. On Feb. 1, 2003, Chawla was one of seven crew members who perished when the Columbia disintegrated during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. The 40-year-old native of Karnal, India, was flying in her third mission to space. Upon her death, she was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. Her legacy lives on in many ways including here in Queens, where part of 74th Street in Jackson Heights has been named Kalpana Chawla Way in her honor.
Sunita Williams is one of the world’s most experienced female astronauts. A U.S. citizen of Indian descent, Williams has made seven successful spacewalks and spent more than 50 hours walking in space, which were both records for a woman at the time of her accomplishments. From September 2012 to November 2012, she served as commander of the International Space Station (ISS) during Expedition 33. In 2007, while stationed on the ISS, she became the first person to run a marathon in space, running the 26.2 miles at the same time as friends and colleagues ran the Boston marathon. Back on Earth in 2008, she completed the Boston Marathon again.