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Late Indian Astronaut Loved Birdwatching

National Audubon Society Establishes The Kalpana Chawla Fund For Environmental Stewardship

Columbia Astronaut Planned to Take Care of This Fragile Planet Upon Her Return - Her Will Establishes Fund with a $300,000 Donation

Her feet may have been planted firmly on the soil of her hometown of Karnal, India, but Dr. Kalpana Chawla`s eyes were on the sky from an early age. The future astronaut became fascinated with flight through observing the birds around her home and watching planes at her town`s local flying club. She could not have known that in her future, her view of the sky would change dramatically -- she would look down onto Earth from high above the blue skies she admired in her youth and continue to marvel.Just looking at Earth, looking at the stars during the night part of Earth; just looking at our planet roll by and the speed at which it goes by and the awe that it inspires; just so many such good thoughts come to your mind when you see all that, she said in an ABC News interview. Doing it again is like living a dream - a good dream - once again.

Dr. Chawla`s dream of space flight was realized in 1996 when she became the first Indian-American to fly with a United States shuttle crew. Tragically, as the nation and her family watched helplessly, Chawla and her six crewmates perished on February 1, 2003, over Texas as Columbia was re-entering Earth`s atmosphere en route to a landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.Before her death, Dr. Chawla remarked from the spacecraft Columbia that it was important to take care of this fragile planet. Upon her return to Earth, she hoped to become more involved with Audubon and similar organizations that supported environmental stewardship and education.

Dr. Chawla`s will designates Audubon as the organization of her choice for fulfilling this wish. Following through her desire to recognize and support outstanding individuals who are committed to the sustainability of Planet Earth, Dr. Chawla`s will establishes The Kalpana Chawla Fund for Environmental Stewardship with National Audubon Society to promote the care and wise stewardship of our fragile planet. The $300,000 Fund will recognize worthy conservation projects in the U.S. and globally. Audubon will work with its international conservation partners, including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Bird Life International, to identify significant environmental efforts worldwide.Kalpana Chawla`s regard for birds and the planet that supports them was deeply held, said Audubon President John Flicker. Her desire to foster strong stewardship and protect our global heritage is realized in the fund that her will so generously establishes and that Audubon is fortunate to administer.

Kalpana Chawla is a hero, said Audubon Chair-elect Carol M. Browner, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Her accomplishments at such a young age were remarkable. It is testament to the depth of her knowledge that she understood how fragile our planet is and how we must all work to protect it.An accomplished birder, Dr. Chawla, developed a love of nature and birds as a girl in India. While living in Houston, she shared her love of birding with her sisters and her friends, who often accompanied her on long birding trips in and around Texas. On one trip to Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coastal bend, Dr. Chawla and her friends marveled at the huge flocks of herons, egrets, ibises, and migrating birds that stop through Texas on their route south. Chawla loved the possibilities for seasonal sightings of migrating birds in Texas, said Carolynn Conley, a close friend and fellow birder, in a profile that appears in Birding magazine. Kalpana grew from the lessons she learned from birds, continued Conley. More than just the birds themselves, Kalpana taught us that birding is also about people and relationships, said Cynthia Tuthill, Chawla`s friend also featured in the Birding magazine article. She was so deeply touched by this magnificent community of souls. She loved sharing her experiences and learning from others.

For further information contact: Kristy Wright 212/979-3027 kwright@audubon.org

4th July 2014