Houston : As she packs up her small luggage and special memorabilia for a return journey back to Earth, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams is reluctant to bid adieu to her eventful second sojourn to space which she describes as a “really cool” place which nobody would like to leave.
“We don’t pack our clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. That stuff is all here when we arrive. Even our special shirts and cargo pants are waiting here for us. But this is our personal stuff (which they are packing), so no one else will want it”
With hours left before she is scheduled to hit her home planet, back on Earth her friends and family, especially her parents are eagerly waiting to welcome her and wishing for her safe return. Deepak Pandya, her father, who lives in Boston, told PTI, “we will be in Houston to meet her on November 18th.”
The home-bound trio of astronauts — Williams, Flight Engineers Aki Hoshide and Yuri Malenchenko, will undock at 2226 GMT Sunday (0356 IST Monday) and land in Kazakhstan at 0153 GMT Monday (0723 IST). However, Sunita, who says she loved her stay in space, still appears in denial. “I am still in denial, but I am going through the motions because I don’t want to forget something when the hatch closes … so we are preparing”.
According to Sunita, space is “just really cool” and finds it amazing how astronauts quickly adapt to it. “You can be standing one moment and with just a little effort, flip upside down and be hanging – ‘look ma, no hands!’ It is just an amazing place to be.
“Not to mention the view… why would anyone want to leave?” she said in a communication before her return.
The Indian American is busy packing up her personal things which she took up with her, including a yo yo, a crew notebook with pictures, speciality t-shirts and a family photo album. “It’s funny that your life actually boils down to these little things – really, think about it. Not much more is really important than the people (animals included), places and memories you have!” she said.
Despite a long stay, the luggage carried by the astronauts is very small — only 1.5 kg in the Soyuz. “We don’t pack our clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. That stuff is all here when we arrive. Even our special shirts and cargo pants are waiting here for us. But this is our personal stuff (which they are packing), so no one else will want it”. Sunita who has essentially worn one pair of pants and one pair of shorts in the entire trip, says you don’t get “dirty” up here but working on equipment means there are occasional stains on clothes. “Additionally, we don’t do laundry up here – we just get new stuff and throw away the old stuff. We don’t need to change our clothes as much as we do on the ground – not anyone up here to impress, and ‘smell-o-vision’ has not been invented yet. Just kidding,” she joked.
Seema Hakhu Kachru