Chandigarh, March 20: It was a solemn occasion for both the students and the teachers as Jean Pierre Harrison, husband of India-born American astronaut Kalpana Chawla, came visiting at Punjab Engineering College.
Harrison, on his first visit to the city after Kalpana was killed in the Columbia space shuttle crash, addressed students of the college where his wife had literally bulldozed her way into the aeronautical department after being told that it was not the stream for her.
“She was very traditional and knew the risks of being an astronaut. She used to tell me that if it (an accident) happens, it happens and it is not a bad way to go. She had the fire to do well,” said Harrison, who was accompanied by Kalpana’s father Banarasi Lal Chawla, brother Sanjay and other relatives.
A video film on Kalpana, prepared by Nasa to highlight her achievements — from her training as an astronaut to the last clips of the crew in the ill-fated space shuttle — was screened.
Harrison said he was very happy to interact with the students. “Kalpana wanted to be here after her mission. It was her wish which I am trying to fulfil. She wanted to share her experiences with the students and I am happy to represent her here.”
Kalpana had fond memories of the college, Harrison said, adding that she always wanted to spend a lot of time on the campus with the students. He said the family has set up a foundation to fund university training of needy children. “At the moment we are funding a student from South Africa.”