The Cabinet expresses its deep shock and sorrow at the tragic death of Smt. Kalpana Chawla, the first woman astronaut of Indian origin, in the mishap involving the Americal space shuttle Columbia on February 1,2003. The Cabinet expresses grief over the death of six other astronauts on board the space shuttle.

Smt. Kaplana Chawla, who hailed from Karnal in Haryana and later joined NASA as space scientist, became the cynosure of all Indians, as also of the entire Diaspora when she journeyed into space in 1997. That she was chosen for a space flight for the second time, in Columbia's 16-day expedition, created tremendous excitement in the country. The break-up of the space shuttle minutes before its touchdown made her death particularly poignant.

Both in life and in death Smt. Kalpana Chawla symbolized mankind's indomitable spirit of adventure, its audacious exploration of new frontiers, and its ceaseless search for new scientific knowledge. She brought glory to India and pride to Indians. Her accomplishments especially heightened the self-confidence of Indian women, who saw in her proof positive that they can do as well as men in pioneering endeavours in scientific discovery. Smt. Kalpana Chawla's mission, taken together with the impressive strides being made by India's own space research programme, will also serve as a source of inspiration for our children, students and youth, who see new vistas of adventure and achievements opening up before them in the 21st century.

The Cabinet sends its heartfelt condolences to the members of the bereaved families.