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Sunita Williams to head Expedition 33 team

New Delhi: US astronaut of Indian origin Sunita Williams will lead the Expedition 33 crew as the team will conduct experiments on survival on long duration flights for distant space journeys.

An officer with the US Navy, Williams, 46, took off from the iconic Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with fellow flight engineers Yuri Malenchenko from Russia and Akihiko Hoshide from Japan in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, NASA said in a statement. The three will join the Expedition 32 crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday.

Williams travelled for the first time to space in 2007 and, according to NASA, she holds three records for a female space traveller – one for the longest spaceflight that lasted 195 days, number of spacewalks (four) and total time spent on spacewalks (29 hours and 17 minutes).

Williams is reported to take over as commander of Expedition 33 upon reaching the space station.

Williams is the second woman of Indian origin to have been selected by NASA for a space mission after Kalpana Chawla, who was killed in the accident which saw the Columbia shuttle turning into a ball of fire in 2003.

Williams had carried with her a copy of the Bhagavad Gita and an idol of Lord Ganesha on her 2007 space odyssey.

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