Sunita Williams to return to Earth on Nov 18

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Sunita Williams
Houston, Nov 18: NASA astronaut Sunita Williams will return to Earth today after spending 125 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The Indian-American who became the commander of the ISS on Sep 17 ceremonially handed over the command to fellow NASA astronaut Kevin Ford yesterday.

"We have left the ship in good shape and am honoured to hand it over to Kevin as we are going soon home and the ship is again in good hands," Sunita said.

So far she has participated in seven spacewalks, the most by a female astronaut or cosmonaut, and holds the record for the maximum spacewalk time for a woman.

Russian Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Aki Hoshide will return alongwith Sunita. The trio was part of Expedition 33.

Kevin Ford served on the same expedition as flight engineer after arriving at the station on Oct 25. He will become commander of Expedition 34 at the time the Soyuz TMA-05M carrying Sunita, Hoshide and Malenchenko undocks from the station today at 5:26 p.m Eastern Standard Time for a landing in the steppe of Kazakhstan several hours later.

Their return will wrap up 127 days in space since they were launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Jul 15.

Ford and his crewmates, Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin, will tend to the station as a three-man crew until the arrival of three additional Flight Engineers in Dec.

NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield, and Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Roman Romanenko are scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec 19, and dock to the station two days later for a five-month stay.

Hadfield will become the first Canadian to command the station when Ford, Novitskiy and Tarelkin depart in Mar, marking the start of Expedition 35.

OneIndia News (with PTI inputs)

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