Touchdown

Sunita Williams has returned safely to Earth after setting the record for the longest time in space by a woman.

Praying for a safe Earth entry

“Welcome back,” Mission Control told Atlantis. “Congratulations on a great mission.” Controllers praised the crew for providing a “stepping stone to the rest of NASA’s exploration plan…”

Astronaut Sunita “Suni” Williams returned to Earth on Atlantis after spending more than six months at the space station. She set an endurance record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman at 195 days. During her stay, she also set the record for most time spacewalking by a woman. [Link]

More cute pictures after the fold.

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“Willeums” :)

40 thoughts on “Touchdown

  1. Oh wonderful, the prayers for her safe return and her actual safe return. That’s the best news ever :-)

  2. Abhi, thanks for the post, the links, and the pics. Re the kids’ prayers, I would normally be a little cynical and think ‘orchestration’, especially given this picture of a choir, but the whole thing really does seem quite spontaneous, what with the mis-spellings of both her first and last names appearing in the placards. That so many kids in India could identify with, and pray for her is uplifting, and that, whether you fold your palms or hold them out while you pray, or neither, it’s the spiritual feeling that matters – is a great message to be sending. With adults getting into this kind of stuff, I would worry a little more, for what is Sunitaji’s trip up and back supposed to represent if not the triumph of science, technology, and rationality over blind belief, superstition and mindless ritual? Still, I remind myself that spirituality being important to the nourishment of the soul, and with science not quite ready with all the answers just yet, a little bit of ritual might be okay too, as long as no people and property are damaged in the process.

    Thanks again, Abhi.

  3. i love the “indian origin” tag. AH! india , sometimes you are so nebulous and others so precise.

  4. awww…”Willeums” :) I wish adults could get away with spelling mistakes. sigh

  5. ut the whole thing really does seem quite spontaneous, what with the mis-spellings of both her first and last names appearing in the placards.

    be cynical chachaji. misspellings are so common across india. they aren’t spontaneous.

  6. Its very cute and heart warming and all that. But really, I think the juxtaposition of one of the greatest achievements of science with blind religious faith is a little disconcerting. Some of the things kids will get inspired from this to take up science, some will get inspired to belive nothing is impossible. All the more so for girls.

    I just hope atleast some kids realise that praying to god has got nothing to do with it at all.

  7. I just hope atleast some kids realise that praying to god has got nothing to do with it at all.

    What??? Don’t you get closer to god every time you go in a spaceship? Now you’ve destroyed my only motivation to be an astronaut.

  8. What??? Don’t you get closer to god every time you go in a spaceship? Now you’ve destroyed my only motivation to be an astronaut.

    Sure. As soon as you can cite a reference that says heaven(assuming it exists) is up in the sky. Infact if you think about it, there is no above and below in space, its all around us. I suppose you could say we can look upwards, the geo-stationary heaven rotates with us and those godless people in China can point downwards.

    P.S – Who wants to go to heaven anyway? All the cool people will be downstairs, so to speak. Plus I heard there is no beer in heaven.

  9. P.S – Who wants to go to heaven anyway? All the cool people will be downstairs, so to speak. Plus I heard there is no beer in heaven.

    Better than beer, Swarga (the heavenly planets) has amrita (intoxicating nectar of the gods), as well as “soma” (some other type of intoxicating beverage or herb) as well as apsaras – cosmically gorgeous male and female exotic dancers.

    The hellish planets on the other hand are described as terribly painful.

    Middle planets like earth are a combination of the two. Some pleasure, some pain.

  10. amrita (intoxicating nectar of the gods), as well as “soma” (some other type of intoxicating beverage or herb)

    Does that come in gimlets?

  11. From the wiki link provided;

    It is possible that the lady’s comment came after Russell’s 1927 lecture Why I Am Not a Christian where, in discounting the “First Cause” argument intended to be a proof of God’s existence, he comments: If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. It is exactly of the same nature as the Hindu’s view, that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, “How about the tortoise?” the Indian said, “Suppose we change the subject.”

    Which Hindu’s believe that? This is the first I’m hearing of such a thing.

  12. Better than beer, Swarga (the heavenly planets) has amrita (intoxicating nectar of the gods), as well as “soma” (some other type of intoxicating beverage or herb) as well as apsaras – cosmically gorgeous male and female exotic dancers.

    The hellish planets on the other hand are described as terribly painful.

    What if I am a masochist? Hell is my heaven then innit?

    Heaven is up. Turtles are down.

    That sounds like a story from Amar Chitra Katha I read as a kid. OMG! Stephen Hawking has joined the ‘Everything comes from India club’

  13. This stuff (all the pics with praying children) looks very over the top to me, but at least it’s about an astronaut, not Big Brother ‘celebrities’.

  14. I figured I should get ahead of the game, so all you kids who are watching here’s a few placards to work on over the weekend:

    1. Welcome back, Abbyshake Treepotty.
    2. G reat/ujju/uy
    3. And here are some photographs to work with.

    Shabhaash bete!

  15. Depends which side of the Disc you’re on. Did anyone notice that this Englishman’s so-called “Discworld” is exactly as described in the classical texts? Below the earth is elephants, people. And below the elephants turtles. I hope nobody again will question the scientific validity of the classical texts.

  16. What??? Don’t you get closer to god every time you go in a spaceship? Now you’ve destroyed my only motivation to be an astronaut.

    Thanks for making me choke on my drink, once again, Rahul. If I die of reading SM, my family will be so unhappy.

    Does that come in gimlets?

    I hear it’s only cosmos and g&ts, although I would like them to include hurricanes (NOLA-style) as well.

  17. Yay for a safe landing. I listened to the landing on the radio. We should have had a special LA meet-up in her honor. With the former Angeleno mutineeers. Love the Abbey pics.

  18. Abhi: Great pictures. On your return from the moon I promise I will arrange such a grand “ABHISHEK” for you, that “CHANDRAMAULI” hiself will be jealous of you. Love….. Dad

  19. Thanks for making me choke on my drink, once again, Rahul.

    You’re always welcome.

    If I die of reading SM, my family will be so unhappy.

    Note just your family. Me and the makers of Clue both. They’ll need to update the game with “It was Mr. Brown, by the Computer, with a Comment”.

    I hear it’s only cosmos and g&ts, although I would like them to include hurricanes (NOLA-style) as well.

    Oh, they’re definitely on the menu in the Act of God bar.

  20. Cute? Bloody disgusting more like. Sunita Williams has but a tenuous connection to India on account of one of her parents being of Indian ethnic origin. And the bloody Indian media and lord knows how many schoolteachers had nothing better to do than display their collective effin’ wisdom in making kids “pray” for “sister sunita”. Just like I “stood to welcome” assorted congress politicians visiting my city during my school years, just like the indian dork media falls over itself to appropriate any NRI or not even I achievement as some great work for India…its so shameful and a typical display of how stupid Indians can be, in their zeal to find acceptance with their so called self assigned betters.

  21. VG @ 15 : Which Hindu’s believe that? This is the first I’m hearing of such a thing. You are right. I know tons of Hindus/Sikhs/Jains, but I don’t know a single one who believes in this tortoise stuff.

    From the content in the wiki entry : The story can also be found in Bernard Nietschmann’s “When the Turtle Collapses, the World Ends,” Natural History, 83(6):34 (June-July 1974). A version of the story also appears in Clifford Geertz’s, “Thick Description: Towards an Interpretive Theory of Culture,” in his 1973 book The Interpretation of Culture, with the scientist and old woman replaced by an Englishman and an Indian respectively. This version may be a reference to various Hindu beliefs, including the myth that Vishnu’s second avatar was Kurma, a tortoise on whose back the Mandara mountain rested, or that the tortoise Chukwa supports the elephant Maha-pudma who upholds the world. I don’t know anyone who believes this to be true in the literal sense.

  22. Why is that we have seen a couple of Indian-American women as astronauts but not any men? Will Abhi be first?

  23. Indian American men are expected to stay grounded so they can provide for their families.

  24. Bloody disgusting more like. Sunita Williams has but a tenuous connection to India on account of one of her parents being of Indian ethnic origin.

    Truly so, this is crazy. So what if one of her folks were Indian, whatever has happened is credit to her and to the opportunities provided to her by by her country. The desi dork media behaves so immaturely sometimes. The same was the situation with Mohini Bhradwaj. It’s ok to report it and maybe have an interview or two but kids holding posters and all this delirium is just crap.

  25. Cute? Bloody disgusting more like. Sunita Williams has but a tenuous connection to India on account of one of her parents being of Indian ethnic origin.

    Exactly! Thank you for that. I thought this was another great example of bandwagon-jumping. Gosh, it seems like so much of Indian self-esteem is stoked by either things from pre-history (like inventing the zero, Milkha’s almost-bronze) or things barely Indian (like Sunita’s, Mohini’s achievements).

  26. SkepMod, I agree. It’s kind of interesting, though, to see how the aspirational Indian’s role models have shifted West-ward…back in the day, a desi Miss World and an Olympic medal would have been pointed to as signs of international accomplishment, now it’s all about the NRIs or PIOs, and overseas desis are very much appropriated as “ours” even in Karan Johar films.

  27. Which Hindu’s believe that?

    One Hindu named Aryabhatta did not. He derived a highly accurate value of the duration of solar day – proposing a model of the earth rotating on its axis. The value was pretty good for over 1,000 years. There are so many cosmological accounts none of which make truth claims. It is wrong to term any one of them as the definitive Hindu cosmological account. But ancient Indian cosmological acounts as a rule (Buddhist/Hindu/Jain) talk of infinite time and space without batting an eyelid. These are not wholly scientific claims (i.e., not derived by the scientific method) and substantially logical, even rhetorical.

  28. Lord, bollywood..dont make me cringe..even more. The indian media are a perfect example of deracinated indians, everything homewards is disgusting and infradig. On the other hand, bollywood peddles a saccharine sweet version of some alternate reality India which is more or less equal to whatever the dotard director believes india to be. Remember that awful (to me at least) SRK flick “pardes” or whatever with a US born lech and the good indian boy who takes the village belle. sh*t, it turned my stomach. Oh Bollywood and its mera bharat mahaan morality..

    So we fall ourselves praying for mata shrimati kalpana, mata shrimati etc etc sunita williams, while..how many died in maoist attacks in India the last week, how many soldiers got killed in kashmir, no prayers for them, right?

    India is massively screwed in this craven search for self esteem via others, and the media establishment has a long way to go in displaying any sort of maturity in this matter. They’ll gladly dump on all these lesser mortals for they arent hip and modern y’see.

    Heck, a couple months back there was some interview in times of india of some US indian origin lady who had come to india and was in the US army …she promptly told the reporter that she would have never joined the IA as it was beneath her, and voila even that was approvingly printed.

    SP, even back in the day, NRIs were feted as the Lords gift to humanity and better than lesser mortals for having made it in Noo Yawk or whichever exotic land they commanded fleets of cars and walked streets of gold. Its just now that with in your face TV and far greater media circus, this fascination for all things imported and abroad is visible in all its shining glory.

    Dont get me wrong, theres a lot to be proud of when it comes to PIOs/ NRIs, but this shindig in kowtowing to anyone perceived as important is so entrenched in our nations collective psyche that it disgusts me. From forcing kids to garland some dead politicians bust, to standing in the hot sun for hours (I have) because kissing some politicians ass is noble, to fawning over “chacha nehru” and the assorted coterie of dynastic idiots who ran the country, to falling over ourselves in printing praise for some NRI who left india decades ago and got to some fat cat corporate position…its just plain shameless idiocy.

    Having seen it for so long..it just seems to go on and on and on..

  29. Having seen it for so long..it just seems to go on and on and on..

    I do agree on a lot of thing you just said, disgusting sycophancy, a need to be accepted and admired by other countries etc etc. But allow me to be a little more optimistic. However, before that let me speculate on the reasons for this. We were screwed over by the English (and thus in our psyche – the white man) for 250 odd years and that definitely had seeped into the collective Indian psyche, that the white man (or everyone else) was better than us – how else would an island of such size rule us so effectively and for so long. Come 1947, what should have happened was that the collective energies of India should have been unleashed. Instead we got mired in the socialist license raj BS and thus in 50 years, all we saw was that nothing Indian does matches to anything imported. Indian things are sub standard. Thus instead of a country which would have started believing in itself and gradually getting over it’s lack of confidence, we became a country which despite doing it’s own thing did not manage do much and so much so we almost became bankrupt in 91. Thus we still have this lower self confidence in our own (good enough) abilities, and everything imported is good. Also, due to little interaction with the outside world we just had a perception of the Brits and Americans and the rest of the world as read in history books etc and thus these countries had become larger than life in the Indian psyche.

    However, while this will take time, the new Indian’s confidence is growing. This group of Indians who know they can compete with the world is rapidly growing. Sure the media panders to the masses which are still not out of the license raj days yet but that number is gradually getting converted into the the aggressive believing Indian. Each success we have is driving another and a change in mindset. Plus, over the last few years as more and more Indians venture out and return home, as they work with more people from the outside world, we gradually see the reality more and thus the larger than life images are also being broken. Sure,we still have enough problems in India but the belief that we can solve them is rising. Maybe the media’s obsession of aggrandizing ever Indian success (while sickening) may in the end turn this lame attempt to seek pride into some real pride. But even if not, I feel this is the point where over time we will see less and less of this BS.

  30. : Why is that we have seen a couple of Indian-American women as astronauts but not any men?

    In the context of affirmative action, colored woman gets two points compared to the one point that a colored man gets.

    This is a mere observation, not a complaint – more power to our brown sisters.

  31. Exactly! Thank you for that. I thought this was another great example of bandwagon-jumping.

    India is massively screwed in this craven search for self esteem via others, and the media establishment has a long way to go in displaying any sort of maturity in this matter.

    Oh come on! I feel you guys are taking this (praise for Sunita Willeums :) )too cynically. The US is hegemonic and does have a huge impact on the rest of the world, and b/c of this Indian immigrants to the US will have coverage. So many South-Asian americans feel a huge connection with their respective South Asian countries… Look at us in SM…we are always talking about what happens in India…and when some Indian does something amazing we take notice and discuss it continously!

    Look how the Irish felt about Kennedy…his ancestory in the US was much older than most desis, but the Irish so felt that he was their “son”. You go to Angry asian Man, and I remember reading about a Korean-American, who’d done something amazing in the US, and was feted in S.Korea.

    Those kids are just really cute…and I don’t think Indians are suffering from inferiority complex with this display of “sunita praise”. It’s so natural and today we have the internet and you can feel a lot closer to what goes on in other parts of the world than before.