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Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams flies to space on Boeing Starliner; Elon Musk reacts (WATCH)

Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams on Wednesday embarked on her third journey into space, making history as one of the inaugural crew members aboard Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft.

Indian origin astronaut Sunita Williams flies to space on Boeing Starliner; Elon Musk reacts (WATCH) snt
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First Published Jun 5, 2024, 10:08 PM IST

Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams on Wednesday embarked on her third journey into space, making history as one of the inaugural crew members aboard Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft. Accompanied by colleague Butch Wilmore, she embarked on a 25-hour flight to the International Space Station, lifting off from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida after several delays.

At 58, Williams serves as the pilot for the flight test, while 61-year-old Wilmore commands the mission. This launch signifies the commencement of the NASA-Boeing Starliner Crew Flight Test (CFT), according to Boeing.

"This crew flight test represents the beginning of a new era of space exploration as we watch astronauts Wilmore and Williams put Boeing's Starliner through its paces on the way to the International Space Station," said Boeing Defense, Space & Security President and CEO Ted Colbert.

"This is a great start. We look forward to getting the astronauts safely to the space station and back home," Colbert said in a press release.

Elon Musk took to X, formerly Twitter to congratulate the team. "Congratulations on a successful launch!" he wrote.

Wilmore and Williams are pioneering not only as the first to launch on an Atlas V rocket but also as the first to experience microgravity aboard it en route to the space station. They will execute various flight test objectives, including manually piloting Starliner.

Accompanying the crew, Starliner carries approximately 760 pounds (345 kilograms) of cargo. Upon docking with the ISS, Wilmore and Williams will spend about a week on the station before returning to Earth. A successful CFT will pave the way for Boeing and NASA to certify Starliner for extended operational missions to the ISS.

Williams, in addition to her historic launch, is renowned for other groundbreaking achievements. In 2012, during a previous stint aboard the ISS, she became the first woman to complete a triathlon in space, simulating swimming using a weight-lifting machine and running on a treadmill while secured by a harness. This followed her notable feat of running the Boston Marathon from the space station in 2007.

Williams earned her commission as an Ensign in the United States Navy from the United States Naval Academy in May 1987. Selected as an astronaut by NASA in 1998, she boasts a distinguished career, having participated in two space missions: Expeditions 14/15 in 2006 and 32/33 in 2012.

During her tenure, Williams served as a flight engineer on Expedition 32 and later assumed the role of commander for Expedition 33.

Boeing’s Crew Flight Test mission faced multiple delays due to setbacks in the spacecraft's development, prolonging its launch for several years. The recent attempt was hindered by last-minute computer issues, leading to the cancellation of Saturday's launch. This setback adds to a series of delays experienced throughout the mission's development, including a previous postponement on May 6 for leak checks and rocket repairs.

Despite the challenges, Boeing has now joined SpaceX as the second private company capable of providing crew transportation to and from the ISS.

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