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Sunita sets record, Atlantis cleared for re-entry
June 16, 2007 20:48 IST
Last Updated: June 16, 2007 23:40 IST
Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams on Saturday added yet another feather to her cap by setting a new world record for the longest uninterrupted space flight by a woman and is now poised to return home next week after NASA [Images] cleared the space shuttle Atlantis' thermal protection system for re-entry to earth's atmosphere.
Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams on Saturday added yet another feather to her cap by setting a new world record for the longest uninterrupted space flight by a woman.
"Early this morning, Mission Specialist Sunita Williams set the record for the longest-duration single spaceflight by a woman," NASA said in a statement.
Williams, who began her spaceflight in December 10, 2006, broke the 188-day, four-hour mark at 1113 IST set by Shannon Lucid in 1996 on a mission to the Russian Mir space station.
Earlier this year, she broke the record for most spacewalk time by a woman by logging 29 hours and 17 minutes in four spacewalks.
The record for most spacewalk time by a woman was held by astronaut Kathryn Thornton.
In April, she also became the first astronaut to run a marathon in orbit.
Williams' feat was followed by a good news when the Mission Control Centre in Houston told the shuttle crew that Atlantis' thermal protection system is cleared for re-entry.
The astronauts got the news while they were transferring cargo between Atlantis and the International Space Station [Images], NASA said.
The heat shield was cleared after Mission Specialist Danny Olivas repaired a protruding thermal blanket on one of Atlantis' orbital maneuvering system pods during a spacewalk.
Atlantis is scheduled to leave the station on Tuesday and land on Thursday, the agency said.
Now set to return home, Williams, being congratulated by the Mission Control for her record, said, "It's just that I'm in the right place at the right time."
"It's just an honour to be up here. Even when the station has little problems, it's just a beautiful, wonderful place to live," she said.
Russian cosmonauts began turning back on some crucial systems that had been shut down more than four days ago when a computer system on the Russian side of the ISS crashed.
NASA said efforts to bring the Russian navigation computers back to full operation will continue on Saturday.
On Friday, "Russian flight controllers and the station crew were able to power-up two lanes of the Russian central computer and two lanes of the terminal computer by using a jumper cable to bypass a faulty secondary power switch.
Flight controllers began sending commands overnight to restart some systems. The central computer is now communicating with the US command and control computer, and the terminal computer is communicating with US navigation computers. The plan calls for more system restarts today," the space agency said.
NASA officials said the crew was never in danger of running out of oxygen, power or essentials.
The computer glitch had added to the NASA's concerns about the space shuttle's heat shield.
The agency had been cautious about the shuttles' thermal protection systems since the Columbia accident killed seven astronauts, including Indian-origin Kalpana Chawla in 2003.
Foam from the shuttle's external tank came loose during launch, striking Columbia's wing and allowing fiery gases to penetrate it during re-entry.