That’s shuttle, Columbia, for its crew of

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That’s one small step of a man, but one great leap for mankind.

The feat was repeated six times from 1969 to 1972. After that another giant step was to establish permanent Space Labs, equipped with all facilities in order to enable the space scientists to conduct necessary tests.

This resulted in MIR and Salyut. All of them have been great achievements to make us feel proud of and leave a rich legacy to the future generations.

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But this adventurous search of the space is not without fatal risks. This has been true with our missions to the celestial world as well. Our aspiring brave scientists have paid in terms of their precious lives and costly scientific spacecraft.

On January 28, 1986, the U.S. space shuttle Challenger was torn apart in the mid air, killing all the seven crew members instantly.

The latest casualty in the long chain of space mishaps has been the loss of Columbia, when it was about to return after its highly successful two-week mission into the space. The unbelievable news of the great tragedy sent big, unbearable shock waves all over the world, making everyone stunned and disbelieved.

India for one had a very special, personal reason to mourn the tragic loss of the space shuttle, Columbia, for its crew of seven included a promising young lady of Indian origin, Mrs. Kalpna Chawla.

While millions of her young admirers in India were preparing to celebrate her glorious return, they were shocked to hear a little after 7.00 p.m. on February 1, 2003 that their motivating star had perished in the space.

They were too stunned to react and the tragedy had made Kalpana a household name. She won rich tributes from all, including the then Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee and U.S. President Bush. The first Indian cosmonaut, Mr. Rakesh Sharma, correctly said, “To Kalpana Chawla and her six colleagues, we can only say for the last time, ‘Bon Voyage’.”

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