'I've seen 16 sunsets, 16 sunrises in a day'

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Ahmedabad, Sep 22: Witnessing 16 sunsets and sunrises in a single day in a space shuttle was a lifetime experience, said Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams while relating her experiences in the space.

Ms Williams was here today to receive the 'Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Vishwa Pratibha Award' by Vishwa Gujarati Samaj (VGS) at a function in Rajpath Club, where she demonstrated her experiences in the space in a 20-minute-long video.

''In the space shuttle, the body movement was easier and softer because of low gravity. However, if one wanted to stand still, it became very difficult. Food and drink were flying due to low gravity and had to be consumed by jumping at them. Daily physical exercises were very much necessary, particularly, running on trade mills and weight lifting,'' said Ms Williams, who arrived at the function in a blue space suit of astronaut.

''The only way to get in touch with the near and dear ones on the earth was through audio-video communication by internet. In my trying times, I would always take solace in Bhagwat Geeta and the picture of Lord Ganesha I had taken with me,'' she said.

Talking about the possibility of human settlement on another planet, she said ''Settling human race on another planet is a giant leap of science. However, it is just a beginning and there is a lot to be done.'' The award that Ms Williams received at the hands of Gujarat Governor Nawal Kishore Sharma consisted of Rs 2,50,000 cash, a citation and a memento. Ms Williams' father Dr Deepak Pandya declared the award's money for charity.

VGS president Krishnakant Vakharia said ''Since the inception of this annual award in 2001, this is the first instance that it has been conferred to a non-resident Indian (NRI) for excellent service to human kind and society.'' The VGS confers awards to world renowned persons without discrimination of caste, creed, religion or gender, he added.


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