BOULDER, Colo. — It's been 16 years since University of Colorado Boulder alum Kalpana Chawla lost her life when the Space Shuttle Columbia aircraft disintegrated during its re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.

This Sunday, the university is holding a memorial event to honor her and the other six other astronauts who were part of the seven-member crew. 

Chawla, an American astronaut and engineer, was the first female of Indian origin to go to space. She earned her master's degree in 1986 and her doctorate in aerospace engineering at CU Boulder in 1988.

Her first space mission was in 1997, aboard the six-astronaut crew that flew the Space Shuttle Columbia Flight STS-87.

She returned to space in 2003 aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia Flight STS-107. That shuttle broke apart Feb. 1, 2003, over Texas when it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere due to a piece of foam insulation that broke off during the shuttle's launch.

The other six astronauts killed in the incident were: 

  • Rick D. Husband
  • William C McCool
  • Michael P. Anderson
  • David M. Brown
  • Laurel Clark
  • Ilan Ramon
Columbia STS crew
The crew of STS-107 in October 2001. From left to right: Brown, Husband, Clark, Kalpana Chawla, Anderson, McCool, Ramon.

CU's event will also honor the January 1986 Challenger disaster, in which a seven-member crew was killed after the shuttle broke apart 73 seconds into its flight. 

Another CU Boulder alum, Ellison Onizuka, was among the crew that died in that disaster. 

Ellison Onizuka

The other crew members were: 

  • Francis R. Scobee
  • Michael J. Smith
  • Ronald McNair
  • Judith Resnik
  • Gregory Jarvis
  • Christa McAuliffe

> Click/tap here for more information on Sunday's event.

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