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Happy New Year Sunita, 16 times over!
Seema Hakhu Kachru in Houston | December 31, 2006 17:12 IST
Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams will get to celebrate New Year Day 16 times on board humanity's farthest outpost in space as the International Space Station orbits the earth that many times in a day.
Williams, along with fellow astronauts -- American Michael Lopez-Allegria and Russian Mikhail Tyurin -- is expected to feast on special rations allowed for New Year: with each astronaut being permitted to take six containers of their favourite food with them.
Williams, who loves Indian food, carried a container full of Samosas, among other culinary delights.
The 36-yer-old Indian-American astronaut spent the past week getting accustomed to life at the ISS and unpacking and stowing away more than two tonnes of equipment and supplies left behind by space shuttle Discovery.
During the week, crewmembers also worked on experiments analysing heart function during long-duration space flight, measuring cosmic rays and examining plant growth and changes in blood of long-duration spacefarers.
Williams, who reached the ISS on December 12, had an hour budgeted each day to familiarise herself with the station and adapt to life on board. The unstructured hours are scheduled during new crewmembers' first two weeks aboard to get them used to the station and its activities.
The crewmembers had a day off on Monday for Christmas, a day after Discovery docked at the Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center. Except routine maintenance and some physical exercises, they had a quiet Christmas cherishing their gifts flown out with Discovery.
Lopez-Alegria and Tyurin passed a milestone of their stay on the station on Tuesday -- it was their 100th day in space.
Scientific activities picked up on the station since the departure of the STS-116 crew. The crew was back on its regular schedule Tuesday, waking at midnight (local time) and going to bed a little after noon.
The astronauts entered new supplies and equipment in the Inventory Management System, a computerised, bar-coded tool to keep track of the voluminous material aboard the orbiting laboratory.The crew also continued a Nutritional Status Assessment and did their daily 2.5 hours of exercise designed to mitigate some of the negative effects of lengthy space flights.