NASA will dedicate a new supercomputer this week to honor the memory of astronaut Kalpana "KC" Chawla, one of the seven crew members aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, lost Feb. 1, 2003. The dedication ceremony will be held May 12 at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Before joining the astronaut program, Chawla worked as an aerospace engineer at Ames from 1988 to 1995. Chawla, the first Indian-born woman to fly in space, served as a flight engineer and mission specialist aboard Columbia.

"It is indeed an honor to name NASA's new SGI® Altix 3000 supercomputer after Kalpana Chawla," said Ames Center Director G. Scott Hubbard. "She was not only a member of the NASA family, but also a special member of our own Ames family. We all miss her and her many contributions to the agency."

At Ames, Chawla had the challenging task of computing the airflow surrounding a jet-supported delta-wing aircraft during landing. During an interview in 1995, Chawla predicted that her exposure to a wide variety of computer systems at Ames would be especially useful to her as an astronaut. Of the dozens of experiments successfully conducted by the Columbia crew, Chawla's favorite was the Israeli Mediterranean Dust Experiment, which involved pointing a camera at Earth to study the effects of dust on weather and the environment.

"Fittingly, the SGI® Altix 3000 supercomputer that will be named 'Kalpana' is being used to develop substantially more capable simulation models to better assess the evolution and behavior of the Earth's climate system," said Ghassem Asrar, NASA's associate administrator for Earth Science.

The new supercomputer is being used for a group effort by NASA Headquarters, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., NASA Ames and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., to deliver high-resolution ocean analysis in the framework of the ECCO (Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean) Consortium, which involves JPL, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass., and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, La Jolla, Calif.

The new supercomputer 'Kalpana' is not the first at NASA Ames to be named in honor of a person, and in fact, follows a long tradition at the research center of naming its new supercomputers after pioneers in the supercomputer industry or others in recognition of their achievements. A total of six supercomputers at Ames are named as follows:

* 'Chapman,' an SGI Origin 3000, 1,024-processor single-image, shared memory system named after Dr. Dean Chapman, a former Director of Astronautics at Ames who developed heat protection systems for the Space Shuttle; * 'Lomax,' a 512-processor SGI Origin 2000 supercomputer named after Dr. Harvard Lomax, a pioneer in Computational Fluid Dynamics who also worked at Ames; * 'Steger,' a 128-processor Origin 2800 supercomputer named after Joseph Steger, whose work in computational technology revolutionized the use of computers to solve complex aerospace problems; * 'Lou,' the main production storage system at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing Division named after Ames research scientist Louis Lopez; * 'Hopper,' a 64-processor Origin 2000 supercomputer named after Grace Hopper, a pioneer in computer science and * 'Turing,' a 24-processor SGI Origin 2000 supercomputer named for Alan Turing, a mathematician and early computer pioneer.

"With the addition of the SGI Altix system, NASA's high-end computing testbed activities in support of the agency's science and engineering missions are greatly enhanced," said Dr.Walt Brooks, chief of the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) Division at NASA Ames. "Thanks to its outstanding performance capabilities, this supercomputer is helping NASA achieve breakthrough results to meet major challenges in climate and ocean modeling and aerospace vehicle design," Brooks added

Deep Purple sings for Kalpana Chawla

WASHINGTON, DEC 23: When the legendary rock group Deep Purple sang about the "fire in the sky" in their signature song Smoke On The Water , little did they imagine that some day the expression might well be applied to the Columbia space shuttle disaster.

Nor did they reckon that one of the astronauts on board Columbia, India-born, might turn out to be a fan, and later, a friend.  

Chawla carried three Deep Purple CDs into space, and woke up every morning to the piercing sounds of Space Truckin' from the album Machine head . During her 16-day space odyssey, she exchanged e-mail with the band members.  

The CD copies of Machine head , Purpendicular and Down to Earth were found among the Columbia debris. NASA used them as part of special commemorative plaques honoring the seven astronauts.  

The rock group has now commemorated Chawla's death with a tribute in the form of a song called Contact Lost , the final track in their new album Bananas . The track, an instrumental number, was composed by DP's lead guitarist Steve Morse.  

The band members were horrified and deeply saddened by Columbia's fate, and Morse immediately channeled his emotions into composing Contact Lost within one hour of the accident, the group said in a statement accompanying the release of Bananas.  

Morse is donating his Contact Lost songwriting royalties to the families of the astronauts.  

The band has just concluded a concert in Mexico City where members of the group were presented with special plaques by Chawla's husband.  

The band will begin a tour of US in February with the launch of Bananas , and they are expected to visit Asia, including possibly India, later in the year.

From India to Arlington to Earth orbit

ARLINGTON - A world away, she is a national hero, saluted in tearful newspaper tributes as "India's Space Girl."
In Arlington, "K.C." Chawla is remembered as a courageous explorer, a determined young graduate student who bucked the traditional role of South Asian women and left her homeland for the promise of America and education. Lost somewhere in the sky over Texas on Saturday was a 5-foot white silk banner that astronaut Kalpana Chawla carried on the doomed Columbia. It showed a tiny schoolgirl bowing to a teacher with hand outstretched, a way for Chawla to honor all schoolteachers. The shreds must have fluttered to Earth somewhere near the first American stop on her heaven-bound quest: the University of Texas at Arlington. "Graduate students from India sometimes find that adjusting to Texas is a challenge," said Don Wilson, chairman of the UT-Arlington mechanical and aerospace engineering department. He was one of Chawla's graduate professors from 1982 to 1984. "K.C. was very focused. She was absolutely going to succeed. ... When she decided to become an astronaut, then she was going to become an astronaut." First, she decided not to become a housewife. That was a woman's traditional destiny in the village of Karnal, where, according to news reports, she grew up in a well-to-do family -- but in a town where 60 percent of women are illiterate.
Her mother wanted a boy. When Chawla grew up smart and curious, wearing straight hair and jeans and learning karate, her father told her to become a teacher. When she applied to engineering school in India instead, "all hell broke loose," her brother has been quoted as saying.Even the engineering professors told her not to study aerospace, Chawla has said. They told her that electrical engineering was "more ladylike." She was the only woman in the entire aerospace department at Punjab Engineering College. She went on to become India's only woman in space -- and now that nation's version of Christa McAuliffe, the American schoolteacher killed aboard the Challenger. On the Web sites of Indian newspapers, readers are calling her India's "bird" who "touched the stars."
"She lives in the heart of each and every scientist and engineer of India," one reader wrote. Another described her as "darling and adorable. ... Through [her] eyes, India looked at the universe."
It's amazing to think how revered Chawla is halfway around the world.
And how another Chawla might be walking among us today in Arlington. Just as we take spaceflight for granted, we also take UT-Arlington's 2,800-plus international students for granted. We see brilliant young men and women like Chawla all the time in the bookshops and the restaurants of what has truly become North Texas' international city.
"There is tremendous talent here, and sometimes we don't realize it at the time," said Don Seath, the director of UT-Arlington's aerospace engineering program and also one of Chawla's former teachers.
"Haji" Haji-Sheikh, another of Chawla's former professors, named former students who are running companies in Hong Kong or teaching at universities in Singapore. "They come to UTA with fresh ideas, and they turn out to be quite innovative," Seath said. "Then they go all over the world." Or into space.
In an e-mail from the Columbia, Chawla told the students of her hometown school: "The path from dreams to success does exist. May you have the vision to find it, the courage to get onto it and the perseverance to follow it. "Wishing you a great journey." For Chawla -- as it has for thousands of young students -- the path to success led through Arlington.