07 May, 2021

Ragas In Outer Space

Kalpana Chawla brings strains of India into outer space

Ragas In Outer Space

THE seventh day, way above the world, wasn't spent in rest. The melodious sounds of Raga Mishra Piloo, played by sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, woke up the first-ever Indian American astronaut, Kalpana Chawla, and her colleagues aboard the shuttle Columbia on November 25 as they reached the one-week mark of their 16-day space flight. A NASA official in Houston told Outlook: "That (tune) is very special for Chawla. She did request it." It was a cross-cultural contrast to the robust sounds of New York, New York—a Frank Sinatra hit—that woke up the orbiting astronauts four days earlier. Besides the special Indian music, Chawla's diet is typically vegetarian as a copy of her daily menu revealed: rice pilaf, tortillas, broccoli au gratin, garden split-pea soup, nuts and dried fruits, cheese spread and tea with cream and sugar.

For Dr Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist, a large part of Flight Day Seven was spent working with several samples of materials in the glove-box facility in Columbia's mid-deck designed to conduct tests on the...

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