Sunita William

Four hundred kilometres above the earth, Indian origin Nasa astronaut Sunita Williams missed some of her favourite things…early morning sea breeze caressing her face, the kiss of raindrops on her skin…and her pet dogs too.

What she missed most was the daily tryst with nature, onboard the International Space Station, an artificial and habitable satellite which became her home for 11 long months. The satellite has been circling the earth for more than 12 years.

“I missed the morning winds in your face. The feel of sand in the toe while walking on the beach with my dogs (Gorby, the Terrier, and Bailey, the Labrador). I missed the animals more than my husband with whom I could communicate from space,” she laughed, at an interaction with school children at the National Science Centre in Delhi on Monday.

The 47-year-old spacewoman, who  spent 322 days in the ISS in two instalments in 2006-07 and 2012, is on a visit to India covering Mumbai, Kolkata and her ancestral village in the Mehsana district of Gujarat.

On her desire to experience nature while in space, Williams recalled how she once  itched to get drenched in the rain after seeing a big rain cloud hovering over Mexico and how breathtaking was her first view of the earth from space.

Quizzed on her Indian connection, the astronaut confessed to have carried a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, a figurine of Lord Ganesha and samosas with her to space. “I have Ganeshas all over my house and you cannot simply get over with Indian food,” she said.

She would not be flying anytime soon as she had to live on earth for some years to get rid of the cosmic radiation she was exposed to while in space.

Williams said a human mission to Mars would be the ultimate challenge for an astronaut, particularly when the astronaut would see the earth as a flickering star with Mars looming large on the foreground. “It will be nerve breaking,”she said.

Elaborating on the space community's dream of sending a human mission to the red planet, she said, “ISS was the test bed for many new technologies and processes and one of them was on landing on Mars. The crew will have to include a doctor, which means budding doctors can also become an astronaut.”

Going to an asteroid and making an intervention was another dream that National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has.

But unfortunately, she did not encounter an extra-terrestrial being in space. “I was just about 400 km above the planet. If you have to see an alien, you have to go further away. But you can feel various flashes of cosmic and solar radiation inside your brain even while you are sleeping,” said the astronaut, who was a good friend of another Indian-origin astronaut Kalpana Chawla, who died in space shuttle Columbia accident in 2003.

Courtesy : Deccan Herald