Sunita Williams arrives in Ahmedabad

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Ahmedabad, Sept 20: American Indian astronaut Sunita Williams arrived here today, months after completing her successful expedition aboard the space shuttle "Discovery". Her last visit to India took place in 1998, when she accompanied an urn believed to contain the ashes of India-born astronaut Kalpana Chawla.

During her five-day visit, Sunita will visit her ancestral home in Jhulasan village in North Gujarat"s Mehsana District. This quaint village, with a population of just about 5,000, is excited about the fact that one of its progeny has brought them fame.

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Williams will be accorded a grand reception by the village council.

"The whole village is happy and preparing to welcome sister Sunita. We will present her with gifts. She will take a round of the village and will also visit the temple," said Dinesh Patel, the head of the village council.

Besides, she is scheduled to visit Mahatma Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram and an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) facility.

The astronaut will also attend a multitude of programmes, including an interaction with students in Ahmedabad, felicitation by the Governor, Chamber of Commerce and voluntary organisations.

The family and relatives of Sunita on Wednesday celebrated her birthday with fanfare in Gujarat.

In Ahmedabad, Williams' father Dipak Pandya cut a cake.

"I wish her success in her coming up expeditions for exploration of space," said Pandya.

Students of the nearby Nelson School were present at the residence of Williams' uncle Vitthal Pandya.

Students of Tagore Bal Niketan School in Haryana's Karnal, where Kalpana Chawla studied, also extended their wishes to her.

"I extend my heartiest congratulations to Sunita Williams and hope she fulfils the unrealised dreams of the Kalpana Chawla," said Pallavi, a student.

Williams, 37, a graduate from the US Naval Academy and selected in the astronaut class of 1998, was appointed along with two others to serve as the backup crew for the International Space Station Expedition 10.

Born on September 19, 1965 in Ohio, US, Sunita married Michael J.Williams, a NASA co-worker. She is currently serving as lieutenant commander in the United States Navy.


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