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Sunita becomes second woman commander of space station

world Updated: Sep 18, 2012 00:17 IST
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Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams has taken over command of the International Space Station, becoming the second woman in history to do so. The first was Nasa's Peggy Whitson in 2007-08.

The change in leadership coincided with three of the six-member crew of the Expedition 32 returning safely to earth on Monday, wrapping up a mission lasting more than four months. Joe Acaba, Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin touched down in Kazakhstan after spending 123 days in the orbiting lab. Just after their Russian-made Soyuz spacecraft separated from the space station on Sunday, Nasa astronaut Williams took over at Expedition 33 from Padalka.

Williams - who holds the record for the longest spaceflight by a woman - will be sharing the space station with veteran Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide until mid-October, when three more astronauts will arrive and round out the full Expedition 33 crew. She will celebrate her birthday on September 19 in space.

"I would like to thank our (Expedition) 32 crew mates here who have taught us how to live and work in space, and of course to have a lot of fun up in space," Williams said during a change of command ceremony.