Sunita Williams’ 3rd Mission To Space Called Off Hours Before Liftoff

Sunita Williams' 3rd Mission To Space Called Off Hours Before Liftoff

The launch of the Boeing Starliner, which was set to take astronaut Sunita Williams to space for a third time, has been postponed due to a technical glitch. No new date has been announced for the launch.

Ms Williams, poster girl for women aspiring to fly into space, was set to reach for the skies again today in a brand-new spacecraft. The Boeing Starliner was set to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida’s Cape Canaveral at 8.04 am India time.

However, just 90 minutes before the lift-off, the launch of the Atlas V rocket was called off. US space agency NASA has announced there was an off-nominal condition on an oxygen relief valve, which led to the postponement. Ms Williams and NASA’s Barry Wilmore, who were to fly the Starliner to the International Space Station, have safely exited the spacecraft. 

This would have been the third space travel for the Indian-origin astronaut, who has already spent 322 days in space and held a record for the maximum hours of spacewalk by a woman, before being overtaken by Peggy Whitson.

This time, she would have made history as the first woman to fly on a maiden crewed mission of a new space shuttle.

Ms Williams went on her first space voyage on December 9, 2006, which lasted till June 22, 2007. While onboard, she established a world record for women by going on four spacewalks that added up to 29 hours and 17 minutes.

Her second voyage was from July 14 to November 18, 2012.

The 59-year-old admitted to being a bit nervous but said she had no jitters about flying in a new spacecraft. She had helped design the Starliner, working with engineers from NASA and Boeing. “When I reach the International Space Station, it will be like going back home,” she said.

Ahead of the flight, she had told NDTV that she intended to carry an idol of Lord Ganesh on this journey, since he is her “good luck charm”. Earlier, she had carried a copy of the Bhagwad Gita. An enthusiastic marathoner, she had even completed a triathlon in space, competing with athletes back in the US.

The 10-day mission will help the Starliner prove its space-worthiness. It would also prove the team’s readiness to achieve NASA certification and fly long-duration missions for the US space agency.

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