Indian American Sunita Williams makes space station landing

Indian American Sunita Williams makes space station landing

Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams and Butch Wilmore on Friday morning entered the International Space Station, the US space agency said on Friday.

NASA's Boeing Starliner carrying the two astronauts had docked with the ISS at 1:34 pm (EDT) after lifting off from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Wednesday.

Footage from NASA showed the two NASA astronauts entering through the hatch door of the USS at 3:46 pm ET on Thursday (which translates to IST on Friday morning). The seven astronauts of the Expedition 71 crew on the ISS greeted Sunita and Butch, the first astronauts to fly on Boeing's new capsule.

The 59-year-old astronaut broke into a jig after entering through the hatch into the ISS and hugged the astronauts onboard the space station.

The spacecraft launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 10:52 am June 5 (local time) from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in

The journey wasn't without challenges, as new issues arose en route, but NASA astronauts Wilmore and Williams safely arrived aboard the station after overcoming obstacles.

The docking occurred with additional steps taken to secure the connection between Starliner and the station's port. Wilmore expressed his delight, stating, "Nice to be attached to the big city in the sky."

Pressure was equalised between Starliner and the ISS, and the hatch between the two opened at about 3:46 pm ET, with the crew warmly welcomed by their ISS counterparts.

"We had music. Matt was dancing. It was great. What a wonderful place to be back," Willmore remarked, expressing gratitude to those involved in the mission.

Williams echoed his sentiments, expressing thanks to family and friends and delight at being part of the ISS family.

"We have another family up here, which is just awesome," Williams said. "And we're just happy as can be to be up in space, one in Starliner on an Atlas V, and then here at the International Space Station. It just doesn't get much better."

The Expedition 71 crew of NASA astronauts on board the ISS include Michael Barratt, Matt Dominick, Tracy C. Dyson, and Jeanette Epps, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Nikolai Chub, Alexander Grebenkin, and Oleg Kononenko.

Jim Free, NASA Associate Administrator, hailed the mission's significance during a news conference, emphasising its role in advancing human spaceflight.

"The launch yesterday and docking today puts the Starliner on a path to certification to enabling continued exploration and science that benefits humanity," Free said during a news conference Thursday.

"For Butch and Suni, I want to thank them for the years they have spent to getting us to this point, the expertise they bring to their roles and their dedication to the task of advancing human spaceflight," he added.

The duo will spend the next eight days on the orbiting laboratory.

Despite challenges during the journey, including helium leaks and thruster issues, the mission proceeded, with the crew successfully troubleshooting and rectifying problems as they arose.

Boeing aerospace engineer Jim May confirmed the stability of Starliner despite helium leaks, stating it wasn't a safety concern. Mission control closely monitored the situation while the crew proceeded with docking.

The mission's success heralds a new era in space exploration and collaboration between NASA and private industry partners, with Williams making history as the first woman aboard such a mission.

Despite delays and setbacks in previous launch attempts, the successful arrival of Starliner at the ISS underscores the resilience and perseverance of the teams involved.


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