Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams, who safely docked with the International Space Station (ISS) for her third trip, danced a little as she arrived at the space station on Thursday. The 59-year-old astronaut was joined by fellow NASA astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore at the space station.

She has achieved the milestone of being the first woman to pilot and assess a new crewed spacecraft during its inaugural mission. Williams and Wilmore were welcomed by ringing of the bell, an old ISS tradition. NDTV has shared the video of Williams’ dance.

“That’s the way to get things going. Thank you for such a great welcome,” said Sunita Williams, calling her crewmembers “another family”. The test flight had faced multiple delays.

Approximately 26 hours after their launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, they successfully docked the Boeing spacecraft to the ISS. Williams and Wilmore are the first crew to fly Starliner.

At 58 years old, Sunita Williams has achieved a historic milestone by becoming the first female astronaut to embark on the inaugural flight of a crewed spacecraft. This marks her third voyage into space.

The success of the Starliner mission will determine whether the spacecraft receives certification for NASA’s six-month astronaut missions to and from the ISS. This service is already provided by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Upon reaching the space station safely, Wilmore and Williams will become part of the Expedition 71 crew. This team consists of NASA astronauts Michael Barratt, Matt Dominick, Tracy C Dyson, and Jeanette Epps, as well as Roscosmos cosmonauts Nikolai Chub, Alexander Grebenkin, and Oleg Kononenko.

Suni and Butch are scheduled to stay aboard the ISS for approximately one week before departing and re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. According to NASA, the spacecraft is expected to land in the southwestern United States on June 10, assisted by parachutes and airbags.

After the successful liftoff on Wednesday night, NASA chief Bill Nelson described the event as a “special moment” during a post-launch press conference. “It’s another one of those great markers in history,” he said.

In 2014, NASA’s Commercial Crew program awarded funding to both Boeing and SpaceX. The aim was to transport astronauts to the ISS following the retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program in 2011.

Boeing was allocated more than $4 billion in US federal funds to develop the Starliner spacecraft, while SpaceX received approximately $2.6 billion for its project.

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Published: 07 Jun 2024, 09:27 AM IST