On Feb. 1, 2003, CU astronaut Kalpana Chawla (MAeroEngr’86; PhD’88; HonDocSci’03) [middle left] and six other astronauts died when their Columbia space shuttle broke apart on re-entry to Earth. The shuttle crew had spent 16 days in space conducting 80 research experiments. Chawla had worked for NASA as a researcher since 1988, logging just over 30.5 days in space. She was posthumously awarded the 2004 Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
Twenty years later, Chawla’s legacy remains strong at CU Boulder. In 2004, the CU Boulder Alumni Association renamed its recent graduate award the Kalpana Chawla Outstanding Recent Graduate Award in her honor. Since then 27 accomplished graduates have received the award.