New Delhi : From the national capital to several small towns, a large number of Indians felt a sense of relief and pride as Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams returned home safely after 195 days in space.
The space shuttle Atlantis with Williams on board landed at 1.19 a.m. IST Saturday at Edwards Air Force Base in the US after completing a 14-day journey of more than 9.3 million km.
Across India, many people had been praying for Sunita Williams after Atlantis failed to land Thursday and Friday due to bad weather.
"It is a great relief. She is a hero and we welcome her on earth," said a jubilant Rahul Samant, a Jaipur resident.
"I was monitoring television and the NASA website till she landed. I was a little frustrated when her first attempt to land could not materialise. But finally god listened to our prayers," said Sandip Rawat of New Delhi.
Sunita Williams was the only subject of discussion for the last three days at the Tagore Bal Niketan School in Karnal, Haryana.
Students of the school, which was deceased astronaut Kalpana Chawla's alma mater, had offered special prayers for Sunita's safe return.
"We were closely watching the developments since Thursday night. After Sunita's landing was deferred by a day, we conducted a special prayer for her," said Rajan Lamba, the school principal.
"It is great to hear that she has landed safely. My students and I were very emotional about the whole expedition and are a relived lot today," Lamba added.
Students of Meerut University and schools in Ahemedabad and Jalandhar also celebrated Sunita's return. People also prayed for "sister Sunita" in Bhopal.
US space agency NASA has planned a public welcoming ceremony for Sunita Williams and the six others who went up to fetch her from the International Space Station on space shuttle Atlantis.