Kalpana Chawla -- the Indian-born woman aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia -- was a hero to many Indians, especially in her hometown of Karnal north of New Delhi.
Ms. Chawla had maintained strong ties to the town even after emigrating to the United States in 1982 to pursue higher studies and her career in space.
After her first mission aboard the space shuttle in 1997, she started a program to bring two children from her old grade school to visit the U-S space agency's headquarters each year.
Today (Sunday), hundreds of mourners paid their respects at the school, laying down flowers and remembering how much Ms. Chawla loved flying into space.
The governor of Punjab province (J-F-R Jacob) has instituted an award for academic excellence in Ms. Chawla's memory. The annual award will go to the top aeronautical sciences student at Punjab Engineering College, from which Ms. Chawla graduated in 1982.