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Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams makes history as she rockets into space onboard NASA's Boeing Starliner

"Let's go, Calypso," was the message Sunita radioed to mission control minutes before liftoff, referring to the name of the Starliner capsule

Written by  Shefali Kohli -- June 06th 2024 06:20 PM
Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams makes history as she rockets into space onboard NASA's Boeing Starliner

Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams makes history as she rockets into space onboard NASA's Boeing Starliner

Sunita Williams makes history : Indian-American astronout Sunita 'Suni' Williams- piloted spacecraft carrying fellow NASA astronaut Barry' Butch' Williams was launched on Wednesday toward the International Space Station (ISS) from the Cape Canaveral Space Station in Florida in a test flight that was hit with multiple delays.

"Let's go, Calypso," was the message Sunita radioed to mission control minutes before liftoff, referring to the name of the Starliner capsule. "Take us to space and back."


Starliner is scheduled to reach the ISS today at around 9.45 pm Indian Standard Time (around 12:15 pm ET).

NASA said in an update on Thursday morning said that both Sunita and Butch Wilmore are hard at work performing initial tests on the Starliner spacecraft in orbit.

 "The first six hours have been absolutely fascinating," Butch who took manual control of the spacecraft told the mission centre at NASA's centre in Houston.

NASA said that at 10:52 am ET, Boeing's Starliner lifted off on a ULA Launch Atlas V rocket for the first time and the mission dubbed as the Crew Flight Test aims to certify the spacecraft for routine space travel to and from the International Space Station.

Sunita Williams, 58, has scripted history by becoming the first female astronaut to fly on the first flight of a crewed spacecraft. The flight also marks Sunita's third foray into space. 

Starliner's success will determine if the spacecraft will be certified to fly six-month astronaut missions to and from the ISS for NASA, something which Elon Musk's SpaceX already does.

After a safe arrival at the space station, Wilmore and Williams will join the Expedition 71 crew of NASA astronauts Michael Barratt, Matt Dominick, Tracy C. Dyson, and Jeanette Epps, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Nikolai Chub, Alexander Grebenkin, and Oleg Kononenko.

Meanwhile, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk congratulated Boeing on the successful launch of its Starliner craft to space.

"Congratulations on a successful launch!" SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said via X today. He also retweeted the US space agency's tweet that read "Starliner to the stars!"

Both Suni and Butch will remain in the ISS for about a week before undocking from the ISS re-enter Earth's atmosphere. It will make a parachute and airbag-assisted landing in the southwestern United States on June 10, NASA said.

Both Boing and SpaceX received funding from NASA's Commercial Crew program in 2014 to carry astronauts to the ISS after the US space agency retired its Space Shuttle Program in 2011.

Boeing received over USD 4 billion in US federal funds to develop the Starliner, while SpaceX received about USD 2.6 billion.

- With inputs from agencies

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