11 Jun, 2007 l 1024 hrs ISTlPTI
IT’S TIME TO GO HOME: A file photo of Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams, who is all set to return home after wrapping up her six-month long tour of duty as a station crew member. She switched places with mission specialist Clayton
Anderson (Reuters Photo)
HOUSTON: Amidst greetings, hugs and handshakes with the 11-member shuttle Atlantis crew, who arrived at the orbiting outpost, Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams wrapped up her six-month long tour of duty as a station crew member by switching places with mission
specialist Clayton Anderson.
Sunita will now start packing her stuff to return home on June 19 after her longest and wonderful sojourn in space.
She is looking forward and longing to meet her family, especially her parents, Deepak and Bonnie Pandya, her husband Michael Williams and above all her special dog, "Gorby".
However, amid the smiles and salutations, questions remained unanswered about a section of peeled-back thermal blanket on the shuttle.
Engineers continued to review photographs of the affected area to determine whether it could pose a problem when Atlantis returns to Earth.
NASA is taking no chances after the Colombia disaster in February 2003, when Indian-born astronaut Kalpana Chawla and six other crew members perished mid-air.
The shuttle disintegrated on re-entry to earth when a protective foam tile shook loose and a hole burned into the shuttle's body.
NASA engineers are focusing their attention on a gap about 4 inches by 6 inches that was discovered after Friday's launch from Kennedy Space Center.
Engineers weren't sure whether stitching on the blanket came loose or whether the blanket, covering a pod of engines near the shuttle's tail, was hit by debris during launch.
Hatches between the two spacecraft opened about about one-and-a-half hours after the shuttle docked with the space station.
"Atlantis arriving," Sunita Williams, said after the traditional ringing of a bell.
Atlantis' astronauts floated into the space station's Destiny laboratory and hugged each of the station's residents, which includes the commander, Fyodor Yurchikhin, and the cosmonaut Oleg Kotov.
After exchanging greetings and receiving a safety briefing, both crews resumed work.
Prior to Atlantis' arrival, the astronaut Danny Olivas took additional photographs from inside the shuttle of the area where the thermal blanket had peeled back.
The images were sent to Mission Control for analysis.
Astronauts inside the space station also took photographs of the shuttle's belly when Atlantis was 600 feet below the orbiting outpost.
Nasa engineers are focusing on a gap about 4 inches by 6 inches that was discovered after Friday's launch from Kennedy Space Center.
Engineers were not sure whether stitching on the blanket came loose or whether the blanket, covering a pod of engines near the shuttle's tail, was hit by debris during launch.
The rest of the vehicle appeared to be in fine shape, Nasa said. Sensors reported six hits on the wing during launch, but engineers were not concerned.
After the Columbia disaster, a shuttle repair kit was included in all shuttle missions.
Meanwhile, after a busy Sunday at the International Space Station, attention has turned to the mission's first spacewalk.
The excursion, which will focus on the on-orbit assembly of the station, is slated to begin at 1:53 p.m. EDT Monday.
Space Shuttle Atlantis and the STS-117 crew arrived at the station on Sunday at 3:36 pm, delivering a new truss segment and crew member to the orbital outpost.
The STS-117 crew entered the station for the first time after the hatches between the shuttle and station opened at 5:04 pm. The STS-117 astronauts quickly jumped into joint operations with the station's Expedition 15 crew.
The crews also began preparations for Monday's installation of the Starboard 3 and 4 (S3/S4) truss segment and the spacewalk.
The crews used the shuttle robotic arm to lift the S3/S4 out of Atlantis' payload bay and to hand it off to the station arm.
The S3/S4, which contains a new set of solar arrays, is scheduled to be attached to the station prior to the start of the spacewalk conducted by STS-117 Mission Specialists John "Danny" Olivas and Jim Reilly. Olivas and Reilly are spending the night in the station's Quest Airlock in preparation for the spacewalk.
WAIT PLEASE: The return of shuttle Atlantis has been delayed by two days to help astronauts fix a problem on the body of the spacecraft. The shuttle which blasted off last Friday was originally scheduled to return to earth on Tuesday
HOUSTON: The return of shuttle Atlantis, which will bring back Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams home after her six month space sojourn has been delayed by two days to help astronauts fix a problem on the body of the spacecraft.
Sunita wants more Indian food in space
24 Feb, 2007 l 2016 hrs ISTlPTI
NEW DELHI: A packet of samosas she carried with her to space having already made news, astronaut Sunita Williams on Saturday said that she would like to have more Indian food aboard the International Space Station.
Interacting with students of a Delhi school in a 'tele-bridge talk', Williams, who is half-Indian, said she was having Indian dishes like 'Sag Paneer' and 'Halwa'
"But I would like to have more Indian food in space," she said responding to a question from a student on what kind of food was available at the space station.
Williams, who had carried a packet of samosas with her when she shot into space on December 11, 2006, said she would like to have more of the spicy snacks.
Among the students who interacted with the 37-year-old flight engineer were the niece and nephew of late Indian astronaut Kalpana Chawla, Akanksha and Uday.
While Akanksha asked Williams what was the most memorable part of her space sojourn, Uday asked her why only some planets have rings.
"The first time I went out the door, I saw the whole world. You could see the earth's curvature. The second time, it was at night, and you could still see a lot of lights," Williams said in response to Akanksha's query.
Scheduled to spend six months at the space station, Williams was asked a question on the effect of lack of gravity on the body, to which she said the astronauts minimised the effects of zero-gravity by exercising and their nutrition was carefully devised. The interaction with the students of Vasant Valley School lasted ten minutes.