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Second Indian Woman to Step in Space
Sunday, December 11, 2006

Kalpana Chawla made us proud as being the first Indian Woman in Space. Following in her footsteps, another Indian female, Sunita William is all prepared to take name of the nation on high, in the world of stars and planets. This gutsy woman, with strong will power will spend six months at the International Space Station where US Shuttle Discovery will leave her on completion of a 12 day repair job.

Sunita Williams

A graduate of the US Naval Academy, 37 year old Williams will experience her first space flight. The spaceflight is scheduled to lift off at 8.05 IST on Friday. There will be five other members along with her who will embark on a tricky bid to gain first hand experience to fly in space.  Mark Polansky will be the commander and other crew members include pilot William Oefelein, mission specialists Joan Higginbotham; Nicholas Patrick; lead spacewalker Bob Curbeam; and the European Space Agency's Christer Fuglesang.

Although born and bred in the US, Sunita is aware of her mixed ethnicity and curiosity of fellow Indians to see her flying up in space. Her excitement about her mission is apparent by the ecstasy in her voice when she said, I just can't wait to get to my new home.

According to the NASA, the mission will be devilishly complex which on its success will provide International Space Station with a new electricity system. The STS -116, the next Space Shuttle mission on the shuttle Discovery will drop off Sunita for a six month stay at the space lab. Though she is going as a flight engineer for STS-116, Sunita has to complete a longer space mission than the rest of the Discovery crew.

German astronaut Thomas Reiter of the European Space Agency, will return to the Earth, in place of Sunita.

Sunita comes from a well reputed family, with her father as a physician who migrated to the United States and mother Bonnie Pandya.

She received her B.S. Physical Science degree from US Naval Academy and M.S. in Engineering Management from Florida Institute of Technology.

The astronauts has given the hazardous work of rewiring the orbiting station, establishing a permanent power cable system thereby replacing the eight year old temporary one, made possible after the previous mission in September installed two huge electricity - generating solar array panels on the IS.


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