On Tuesday, United States President George W Bush at a memorial in Houston paid tributes to Kalpana Chawla, the Indian American astronaut, who died along with six others in the Columbia space shuttle crash on February 1.
"None of our astronauts traveled a longer path to space than Kalpana. She left India as a student, but she would see the nation of her birth, all of it, from hundreds of miles above," he said.
Bush said that when the news of the astronaut's death reached her hometown of Karnal in Haryana, the administrator of her high school said, "She always said she wanted to reach the stars. She went there and beyond."
"Kalpana's native country mourns her today, and so does her adopted land," the president said.
Meanwhile, four Indian American lawmakers in the US came together, later in the day, to condole Chawla's death.
"The Indian American community has a feeling of coming of age in the US. Kalpana Chawla was one of its leaders," Maryland House majority leader Kumar Barve said.
Minnesota state senator Satveer Chaudhary said that he had been tracking Kalpana Chawla's career from afar with a great deal of admiration. "She has given us the hope that if someone can come to America and 10 years later represent it in space, then anyone can reach for the stars."
New Jersey state assemblyman Upendra Chivukula felt that the astronaut was a shining star and a role model for the Indian American community. "Her sacrifice for the advancement of mankind has given her a special place, not only in the history but also in our thoughts and memories."
Swati Dandekar, who was elected to the Iowa state assembly in November 2002 said, "Kalpana Chawla's tragic death has affected not only her family and colleagues at NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] but also Indians around the world."
"She has shown us that we can reach for the stars and actually get there. She had a following in India as well as in the US."
She said that women in general were looking at Chawla as their heroine, someone they wanted to be like. "She has proven to the world that a woman from India, or anywhere else, has no limits as to how far she can go."
"Kalpana Chawla was a star on the Earth, now she will be a star in the galaxy forever."