Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams has greeted Indians around the world from space on the occasion of Diwali.
"I wish everybody in India and people of Indian origin around the world, Happy Diwali. It is a wonderful day and a wonderful festival and I am happy we are part of it up here at the International Space Station (ISS)," Williams said.
In a conversation with New York based TV host Riti Sunshine Bhalla, made possible with months of planning between Bhalla's production team and NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Williams thanked the Indian people for their support and hoped to visit India next Diwali and meet them in person.
This was Williams' second appearance as guest on Riti Bhalla Special, a programme named after the teen host, a student of New York University. Earlier in August, Williams had joined Shah Rukh Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Indian American governor Nikki Haley, and others on Bhalla's annual programme to greet the people of India on Independence Day, displaying the tricolour flag on board the ISS.
Williams had carried Bhagavad Gita with her to the ISS in her earlier mission in 2006. In her current mission, she carried a picture of 'Om', symbol of Hinduism and a copy of the Upanishads, which her father gifted to her, the TV show organisers said on Tuesday. "It is a small version but it definitely brings the wisdom to us while we are here and allows us to think of the true meaning of life and what we are doing", Williams told Bhalla, displaying her prized possessions while floating in the ISS.
"Being the commander of her space mission, Sunita has had tremendous demands on her time, and yet when I proposed to her the idea of joining me for Diwali to greet the people of India, she happily and readily agreed," said Bhalla.
"The authorities at NASA's Johnson Space Center were also most helpful in making this event possible", she said, who started her TV specials for India in 2008. The Riti Bhalla Diwali Special with Williams was telecast in nearly 100 countries around the world, collectively by several TV networks based in India and the US, the organisers said in a statement.
Williams who holds the record of the longest spaceflight (195 days) for a female space traveller, left for the ISS aboard a Russian spacecraft July 15 and will return to Earth Nov 19.