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Rediff.com  » News » Samosas, hot bath and NASA honour for Sunita Williams

Samosas, hot bath and NASA honour for Sunita Williams

June 15, 2007 14:08 IST
Ahead of her expected homecoming next week, more than six months after she left earth for her sojourn 250 miles up in the sky, Sunita Williams' family eagerly awaits the big day.

As of Thursday, June 14, Williams was slated to return to earth on June 21 on the space shuttle Atlantis, that took off last week to bring back Williams from the International Space Station, where she has been based.

However, computer glitches on the ISS delayed the return by three days. But that has not discouraged her family as they prepare to welcome her home.

At her parents' home in Falmouth, Massachusetts, where Sunita grew up and visits often, her mother Bonnie Pandya has been looking at the many photographs of her "little Suni" in the family living room, as she has done many times these last six months.

Bonnie Pandya plans to cook her youngest child's favourite dishes when Suni -- as her family calls the astronaut -- comes home in Falmouth, hopefully in August.

"It is great to know she is coming back after so many months. I am very excited and looking forward to seeing my child," Bonnie Pandya told rediff.com

As always, Gorby, the Jack Russell terrier named after former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachov, is getting special attention. Sunita left her dog with her parents when she went into space.

"We are putting together an album of the hundred and one things that Gorby did while she was away," says Bonnie Pandya. "I have taken a lot of pictures of what he has been doing. It may sound funny to other people, but Suni, as you know, likes him a lot."

These last six months the Pandyas have been sending Sunita information about Gorby. "You know how attached she is to him," her mother said.

Dina Pandya, Sunita's elder sister, will travel to Houston to meet the astronaut. She will take Gorby along with her; Sunita is expected to travel to Houston a few weeks after she lands on Earth.

Dina plans to take some home-made food for her sister. "Maybe, some samosas and other stuff, a combination of Indian and other food," she said. Sunita loves samosas. "I would like to smuggle some samosas into space. I love samosas. They are my favourites. My husband also makes them at times," Sunita had told this correspondent last year.

In honour of her record stint in space -- 188 days and four hours to be precise -- her colleagues at NASA's Johnson Space Centre will wear red. Red is the colour of her favourite baseball team, Boston's Red Sox.

The day she returns is "being christened Sunita Williams Day at NASA," Dina Pandya added.

There is one downside to Sunita's homecoming.

Barring her husband Michael Williams, an FBI agent, no one else is allowed to travel to the landing area in Florida or California, where Atlantis may land, depending on the weather on the day she returns.

"I am not going to Florida. Suni will come home in August. They (NASA) do not allow us to be near someone who has stayed in space for so long," Bonnie Pandya said. "Mike (Sunita's husband) is the only one who can see her close, although he too will be behind a glass wall."

The other astronauts on the Atlantis can leave after the shuttle lands. Not Sunita. "She will be carried off and put in rehab. That is why we are not planning to go to Florida," her mother said.

"Suni is thrilled about coming home," her mother added. "She loves New England. She wants to take Gorby to the ocean, go up to New Hampshire, have cups of coffee, take a nice hot bath and wash our hair really good. We are doing that."

Suman Guza Mozumder in New York