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Indians are a very intellectual group of people

delhi Updated: Apr 01, 2013 19:29 IST
Kanika Dhupar
Kanika Dhupar
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

She calls India home and is loving every bit of her stay here. Indian-American astronaut and US Navy officer Sunita Williams (47) was at the National Science Centre here on Monday to address schoolchildren.

In an hour-long Q&A session, she talked about her stay in the International Space Station (ISS), her 322 days in space on two missions, her choice of career and childhood memories from India. Excerpts:

Q: We are proud to claim you as our own and are aware that you carried a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, a figurine of Ganesha and some samosas in space. What else do you cherish about India?
I cherish all childhood memories from India. I came here first as a 10-year-old and this country never fails to amaze me. Yes, I carried a small idol of Ganesha, who has been an important part of my life. I am a spiritual person and taking the Bhagavad Gita, along with a copy of Odyssey, was natural. I am proud of my Indian-American origin. As for Indian food, I can never have enough of it. I'm so happy that I would get to eat to my heart's content (she last visited India in 2007).

Q: Is it difficult for Indian husbands to accept the celebrity status of their wife? How does your husband take it?
I am not sure you can tell a husband anything (laughs), but honestly, marriage is all about partnership. I have been blessed with a very supportive family which has always encouraged me to move ahead. My husband has been at my side and has been an immense strength always.

Q: Have you travelled across India?
Fortunately, I have been in space and watched the entire country (laughs). On a serious note, I am looking forward to my itinerary as I want to visit south India, especially the east coast. I have been to the Taj Mahal and have planned a trip with my siblings for a trek in the mountains.

Q: You will be visiting Gujarat. What is your opinion of Narendra Modi?
I am going to my ancestral house and my tiny brain is only into space stuff. I am not interested in politics.

Q: After the Columbia tragedy in which astronaut Kalpana Chawla died, were you nervous about space missions?
No, I have full confidence in NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). After the tragedy, they (NASA) have always been on high alert. Space flights are a calculated risk. I am excited to continue making Kalpana's dream a reality.

Q: Did you see aliens in space?
When you are in space, you see light flashes that are just radiations. Sometimes, your mind plays games, but no, we did not encounter any aliens.

Q: What do you miss about space?
I miss floating around, never letting my hair down and fixing toilets. On a serious note, living in space is just a small part of your life in retrospective. Everything has its pros and cons.

Q: Do you believe in borders after coming back from space?
It is hard to believe that we have borders on our planet. In space, all we see are oceans. I believe that we are all citizens of this universe.

Q: Your thoughts on China's space programme.
We are happy for the Chinese and congratulate them for their achievements. We always pray every astronaut on a space mission returns home safely.

Q: What do you think of Indians at NASA?
I bump into Indians at NASA all the time. Indians are a very intellectual group of people raring to go and leaving a mark in all fields.