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Sunita begins 2006 space odyssey 2006

Armed with the Gita and samosa, Sunita Williams became the second woman of Indian origin to venture into space.

india Updated: Dec 11, 2006 19:05 IST

Sunita Williams on Sunday became the second woman of Indian origin after Kalpana Chawla to venture into space when the US shuttle Discovery, with seven astronauts on board, rose into the night sky on a 12-day repair mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

The shuttle took off at 8.47 PM local time on Saturday (7.17 AM IST Sunday), the first night launch by NASA in four years since the
disintegration of space shuttle Columbia in 2003 which killed seven astronauts, including Chawla.

Formerly a navy test pilot, Sunita, 41, is a flight engineer and will replace German astronaut Thomas Reiter of the European Space Agency at the ISS for six months.

Discovery lifts off

Sunita is carrying a copy of the Gita, a statue of Lord Ganesha and samosas.

She will take a space-walk to re-wire the international space station and operate its robotic arm.

Sunita is the second Indian woman after Kalpana Chawla to reach the orbit.

Of the 7-member crew, 5 have never flown before.

Besides Sunita, the crew includes mission commander Mark Polansky, WilliamOefelein, Joan Higginbotham, Nicholas Patrick, Bob Curbeam, and Christer Fuglesang, who has become the first Swede in space.

First Published: Dec 11, 2006 19:05 IST