"Get involved, try to be a part of it" is the message of record-breaking Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams to millions of Indians students and space enthusiasts.
Stressing that India has a great resource of people and talent, Williams, who is just back from her 127 days mission to
the International Space Mission, said she can't imagine India taking a backseat in space programmes.
"You know, I hope so... So I haven't really been in the know about all the Indian space program and what it has been doing, but gosh we really hope so," Williams, 47, said when asked if India stands a chance in front of US and Russia to emerge as a leader in space research.
"India has a great resource of people and talent out there that I can't imagine, Indian taking a back seat. So, I am really hoping they will jump out there and be part of the space programme and be flying people in space before too long," Williams told PTI in an interview.
Asked why would her message to fans in India, she said, " I think the message that I would like to give to folks in India about the International Space Station is get involved".
She added, "We have experiments up there from all over the world, not only the international partners that participated in building the space station, but all over the world... universities, schools, we talk to kids all over the place.
"Get involved, try to be part of it, open up new doors and new opportunities".
Williams has spent a total of 322 days in space during her two long-duration missions.
That makes her the second most experienced female astronaut in history, behind NASA's Peggy Whitson (who spent 377 days in space during two station flights).
Williams now also holds the record for spacewalking time for female astronauts.
Williams said she is hoping to visit India "may be this spring and may be next fall".
"India is a little bit hot in the summer time...just like in Houston. So I would love to come possibly this spring or this fall," she said.
Asked how India looked from space, Williams said she took some wonderful pictures.
"I was not getting any good picture when I was first up there and I was little bit bumped out because last time I was there in the winter time and I took some great pictures of India.
"But luckily we stayed up long enough and I got some really wonderful pictures coming up the coast of (where my dad is in Gujarat) Saurashtra, Mumbai, coming across the mountains, the Himalayas, the Punjab area, New Delhi and all to the west, Kolkata, some of the great rivers, Brahmaputra and the Ganges as they were creating sandbars.
"So I took a bunch of pictures, as I said, I was really happy to be there little bit later, when some of the summer haze burned off and you can really see the beauty of India. So that was very lucky".
Asked about her future plans, Williams said she would like to stay involved in the space program.
"I had a great opportunity. And we have young astronauts getting ready to get out there and go to the international space station... I would like to help them as much as I can, while I have the recent knowledge and then after that I would see.
"Eventually when I grow up I would love to be a school teacher. We will see what happens," she said.
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