BAIKONUR (KAZAKHSTAN): Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams took off for second space mission on Sunday.
Sunita, who is of Gujarati origin and the holder of the record for the longest spaceflight by a woman, took off from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 8.40 am (8.10 am IST) along with flight engineers Yuri Malenchenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
The three crew members will join the Expedition 32 crew aboard the International Space Station when their Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft docks to the orbiting complex on Tuesday.
There is a lot of excitement and interest among the people in Gujarat as regarding Sunita's second mission to space.
While the world mostly focused on Sunita's professional achievements, her personal life has been eventful too.
In her pre-flight interview to the NASA official website on June 4, 2012, Sunita talked about her hometown, Needhan, which holds a very special place in her heart.
Sunita also said that she and her siblings were better known as the 'Indian swimmers' rather than the 'Pandyas' by people of Needham.
'My brother, sister and I were swimmers. We swam at Harvard University on a club team there. So every day, twice a day, we drove into town for swimming practice in the morning and in the afternoon. We were the Indian family. All people knew us as the Indian swimmers. That's how people knew the Pandyas as it was not a common name back then,' said Sunita in the interview.
'It was close enough to downtown Boston, which is a small enough city for me.Something like New York scares me a little bit. When I was growing up, we used to even ride our bikes into Boston for Fourth of July celebrations on the Charles River at the Hatch Shell,' Sunita said.
'I knew Boston pretty much like the back of my hand when I was growing up there. I love the town, I love the people, I love the accent; I love people who are a little bit rough around the edges. People say that were not always very nice up there but you just have to get to know us, and we drive like crazy so, it's a great town, my hometown of Needham,' she said.
Sunita's father, Dr Deepak Pandya, had migrated to US from Ahmedabad after receiving his MD degree from Gujarat University in 1957.