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Sunita Williams' Third Space Mission Cancelled Last Minute

Photo : AP

The launch of the Boeing Starliner, carrying astronaut Sunita Williams on her third space mission, was anticipated to mark a significant milestone as she would have become the first woman to fly on the maiden crewed journey of a new space shuttle. However, the eagerly awaited liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida's Cape Canaveral faced an unexpected setback.

Scheduled for 8:04 AM India time, the launch was halted just 90 minutes prior, as the Atlas V rocket encountered an off-nominal condition with an oxygen relief valve. Consequently, NASA postponed the launch, ensuring the safety of both Sunita Williams and NASA's Barry Wilmore, who were slated to fly the Starliner to the International Space Station.

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For Sunita Williams, this mission would have marked her third venture into space, adding to her impressive spaceflight resume that already includes 322 days spent in orbit. Notably, she holds the record for the most spacewalk hours by a woman, a distinction she earned before being surpassed by Peggy Whitson.

Having embarked on her inaugural space journey from December 9, 2006, to June 22, 2007, Sunita Williams has demonstrated her prowess during four spacewalks totaling 29 hours and 17 minutes. Despite her seasoned experience, the 59-year-old admitted to feeling a twinge of nervousness, although she expressed confidence in the safety of the new spacecraft, the Starliner, which she contributed to designing alongside engineers from NASA and Boeing.

Reflecting on her journey, Sunita Williams revealed plans to carry an idol of Lord Ganesh, her "good luck charm," on the mission. Known for her dedication to her cultural and personal beliefs, she previously carried a copy of the Bhagavad Gita on her space travels. Additionally, her passion for physical fitness led her to complete a triathlon in space, showcasing her remarkable athleticism and determination.

The upcoming 10-day mission was intended to validate the Starliner's capabilities and readiness for long-duration flights, ultimately aiming to secure NASA certification for future missions. Despite the setback, the anticipation remains high for Sunita Williams and her fellow astronauts as they await a new launch date to embark on their historic journey into space.

May 7, 2024 11:54 a.m. 6476

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