Warm reception awaits as Sunita Williams heads for Houston
A warm reception is in the offing for record-setting astronaut Sunita Williams as the Indian-American, along with fellow cosmonaut Aki Hoshide, heads for Houston after completing her space voyage.
While Williams will arrive in Houston with Hoshide today, her another fellow cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko is returning to a Russian space facility outside Moscow.
Her family, which arrived here on November 18 from Boston, has expressed gratitude for encouragement and prayers by people in India for Sunita's safe return.
"We are happy and thankful to Lord for her successful Mission. We are so very thankful to everyone in India for their encouragement and prayers for their daughter Suni," Williams's father Deepak Pandya told PTI.
"We will meet her at the airport with her husband and family. We went to NASA space center and saw return of three astronauts coming down to earth by Soyuz. We were all joyful to witness Suni's safe return," he said.
Williams, who was commander of Expedition 33 on the International Space Station, returned to earth after 127 days in space with a new record under her belt - the most spacewalking time by a female at 50 hours and 40 minutes over seven career excursions.
She returned home with two space-going colleagues Aki Hoshide of Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule that landed in Kazakhstan yesterday.
Williams logged 322 days during two space flights making her second on the list of most experienced US female astronauts. She also holds the record of longest spaceflight (195 days) for female space travellers.
She spent 125 of their 127 days in space circling Earth onboard the ISS.
The trio blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on July 15.
While on the outpost, they welcomed SpaceX's Dragon capsule making its first official cargo delivery, which included fresh apples and chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream.
NASA says the returning expedition conducted a range of scientific experiments, including testing radiation levels on the orbiting outpost, assessing effects of micro-gravity on the spinal cord and investigating melting glaciers, seasonal changes and human impacts on the ecosystem.