Her first space mission began on November 19, 1997, as part of the six - astronaut crew that flew the Space Shuttle Columbia flight STS - 87. Chawla was the first Indian - born woman and the second Indian person to fly in space, following cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma who flew in 1984 on the Soyuz T - 11. On her first mission, Chawla traveled over 10. 4 million miles in 252 orbits of the earth, logging more than 372 hours in space.
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