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Sunita Williams discusses space walk and 'samosas'

Last updated on: April 1, 2013 17:16 IST

She holds the world record for the longest space flight by a woman.


But as a child, Sunita Williams never wanted to become an astronaut.


"I never wanted to be an astronaut and had many failures, but ultimately I reached here," said Williams while interacting with students at the National Science Centre in Delhi.


Williams has a total of 50 hours and 40 minutes of spacewalking time spread over seven spacewalks. She holds records for the maximum number of spacewalks for a female as well as the most spacewalk time for a female.


So while she has "pretty much seen the whole of India" from space, she is excited about exploring more of the country.


"There are places where I need to go. I have not been to south India. I would like to go to the Himalayas also," she said.


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'You can never have enough samosas'

Image: Sunita Williams smiles after landing near the town of Arkalyk, in northern Kazakhstan
Photographs: Maxim Shipenkov/Reuters

"My father is from Ahmedabad. So I have seen that part of India. In this trip, I am excited about visiting eastern India. I have never been there. I have been in space. So I have pretty much seen the whole of India," said the 47-year-old astronaut.


Williams said she had carried a copy each of the Upanishads and the Bhagvad Gita to read during her space voyage.


"I also carried samosas in space during my travel, as you can never have enough," she said while talking about her love for Indian food.


Students bombarded her with questions on her experiences in space. They also asked her about Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian American astronaut and the first Indian woman in space.


In 2003, Chawla was one of the seven crew members killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003.


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'I was nervous'

Image: Sunita Williams reacts during a news conference at the Baikonur Cosmodrome
Photographs: Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters

Williams recalled the sense of disbelief she felt when she first heard about the disaster.


"It was a most heart-breaking scenario. I wish nobody has to experience that in the future," said Williams.


Sunita admitted that she was nervous about space travel initially but is now excited about continuing it.


"Actually, I was nervous. There was a lot of work that had to be done to make sure that the space shuttle was ready to fly again," recounted Williams.


"Space ride is risky. But the next step of exploration to space is on. Now, after that incident, we are going through the right phase. We are confident about continuing without any problems," said the astronaut.


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'I wish I was 20 years younger'

Image: Sunita Williams at the Star City cosmonaut training centre outside Moscow
Photographs: Sergei Remezov/Reuters

While talking to reporters, Williams said she was impressed with the present generation of children.


"I am really happy that I am not trying to be an astronaut now because there are some really smart kids here and in the United States. Kids have open-minded ideas," she said.


According to Sunita, technology has enabled the next generation to "get out there and try out new things".


"I am a little bit envious. I wish I was 20 years younger to start my career all over again. The next generation of experts are ready to take up that challenge," said Williams.


She gives full credit to her family for her achievements.


"I was lucky to have a husband and family who have been very supportive and my parents were huge role models," she said.


Williams admitted that she missed flying the most.


"I would love to go back to space again. I will be working in Russia for about a year now. I will be working with the next group of astronauts who will go to space," said Williams.


Williams has spent a total of 322 days in space on two missions -- Expedition 14/15 and Expedition 32/33.


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