Sunita sets women’s record for longest space odyssey

By Arun Kumar


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Washington : Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams set a new record Saturday for the longest space flight by a woman as she prepared to return home June 21 after a six-month space odyssey.

Sunita, who already holds the record for most space walks by a woman, crossed the new milestone at 11:17 a.m. (IST) surpassing the 188-day, 4-hour mark set by US astronaut Shannon Lucid in 1996 on a mission to the Russian Mir space station, US space agency NASA said.

Arriving at the International Space Station aboard space shuttle Discovery Dec 11 after a two-day flight, Williams passed the previous mark as she and the other crewmembers at the station and space shuttle Atlantis that has come to ferry her back to earth slept after a hard day's work.

Sunita became the world's most experienced woman walker in space Feb 4 with four excursions spread over 29 hours and 17 minutes to top Kathy Thornton's 21-hour space walking record.

Meanwhile, efforts to bring the Russian navigation computers back to full operation continued Saturday after their partial restoration Friday by using a jumper cable to bypass a faulty secondary power switch.

With slight damage to shuttle Atlantis' insulation blanket at its tail repaired during a space walk Friday, Sunita and six other astronauts are set to return Tuesday leaving new arrival Clayton Anderson to take her place.