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Sunita Williams on her time in space and the Mars mission

By Anuj Cariappa

New Delhi, July 20: Sunita Williams holds the record of the longest space flight for a woman but as a child, the Indian American astronaut had never thought about voyaging into space ever.

Williams, who has made 7 spacewalks and spent more than 321 days in space was addressing a webinar organised by the APJ Abdul Kalam Centre on "Our Place In Space", on Sunday evening.

Sunita Williams on her time in space and the Mars mission

"I grew up in a family with dad who immigrated from India, and my mother who was an X-ray technician in a hospital, they met each other when he was going through residency. I came from a humble family, me, my brother, we all knew that we should work hard, I never envisioned to be an astronaut. As a child I liked swimming, I was an athlete and I liked animals and wanted to be a veterinary doctor," Williams said.

The daughter of neuroanatomist Dr Deepak Pandya and his wife, Bonnie, of Massachusetts, Williams graduated from the US Naval Academy, became an engineer and a test pilot before being selected by NASA's Astronaut Candidate School in 1998.

Williams is among the four astronauts picked by Nasa on Friday to train for a programme which will one day land an American on Mars. She will be flying to the International Space Station in Boeing's Starliner spacecraft in the next few months.

Nasa's unmanned Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, which is provisionally slated for launch on July 30, could pave the way for a manned mission to the Red Planet subsequently, Indian-American astronaut, Sunita Williams, stated.

"We should go to Mars. It is entirely a different place and it is important we plan how to sustain there. I am sure this will happen in our generation," she said.

Watch the full interview here:

She said that Nasa's Artemis mission, which aims to put a man and the first woman in the south pole region of the moon by 2024, will also help in planning a human mission to the Red Planet.

"Nasa is working with oceanographic institutes, planning a flight to one of Jupiter's moons by sending a submarine to its ocean," she added.

The role of this mission will be in the area of astrobiology. She said that the view of earth from space leaves one awestruck.

"When I had my first glimpse I said vow, how peaceful, beautiful and incredible it is," she said emphasising that it gave sense of oneness.

Williams also shared her experience in space as she enjoyed eating samosas and took with her the Bhagwad Gita and the Upanishad which her father had gifted her.

"Working with our international partners drives cooperation and makes one think of just one world," Williams said.

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    "Boundaries that divide countries disappear when scientists and astronauts work together to fuel scientific discovery on and off the planet", she added.

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