Houston, Sept 17: Record-breaking Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams has taken over the command of the International Space Station, becoming the second woman in history to do so.
Williams, who holds three records for female space travellers, took over as a three-member crew of the Expedition 32 returned safely to earth, wrapping up a mission lasting more than four months. The three-men crew onboard a Russian-made Soyuz capsule touched down successfully in central Kazakhstan steppe on Monday, Sept 17, after spending 123 days at the Space Station.
Just after the Soyuz spacecraft separated from the space station on Sunday, NASA astronaut Williams took over command of Expedition 33 at the station from Commander Gennady Padalka, becoming the second woman in history to do so. The first to hold the record was Peggy Whitson who commanded the orbiting lap in Expedition 16 mission in 2007 and 2008.
46-year-old Williams will be sharing the Space Station with veteran Russia cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide until mid-October, when three more astronauts, including NASA astronaut Kevin Ford, will arrive and round out the full crew of Expedition 33.
"I would like to thank our (Expedition) 32 crew mates here who have taught us how to live and work in space and of course to have a lot of fun up in space," Williams told Padalka during a change of command ceremony. Flight Engineer Joe Acaba of NASA, Padalka and Flight Engineer Sergei Revin of the Russian Federal Space Agency, landed north of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan this morning. They arrived at the station on May 17 and spent 125 days in space, 123 of which were aboard the orbiting laboratory.