Anyone standing outside, listening to the loud interaction inside the National Science Centre could be forgiven if he/she thought some motivational guru was holding a session. It was Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams speaking to around 200 school students, exhorting them to “be good at whatever they do”.
In the free-wheeling interaction with children here on Monday, Williams termed going to the Mars the “ultimate goal” and said she would “love to go back to space again” which now almost “feels like home” to her.
The Rockstar Williams, as she was being referred to by the students here, told them how her space odyssey changed her perspective as an individual. Explaining how there are “no borders” visible from space and everyone is a “citizen of universe”, she stressed on the importance of being more “tolerant”.
Calling her parents huge role models, Williams credited them and values instilled by them with her achievements. “I have never been told I can’t do anything,” she said and exhorted the students not to get bogged down by “failures” .
“I never envisioned to be an astronaut and had many failures, but ultimately I reached here... So my advice to students is that they find something they really like to do and should do it well and enjoy,” she said.
Children too were pretty happy to meet her. “Her words was inspiring. Meeting her was a dream come true for me,” Armaan Sehrawat of Oasis Public School told DNA.
Meanwhile, on a query that whether she would like to go to the Mars if she was never to return to the Earth, Williams said the Mars is the “ultimate goal” but would prefer “robots” going there “first”.
“But I will go if it will be for some really good purpose for helping public,” Williams said and added that she would want to give a chance to the younger generation to take the lead while she would sit back and enjoy them going to space.
She said space almost feels like home to her, where it was like “vacation from earth,” and that she “actuallly would love to go to space again”.
The 47-year-old astronaut holds the record for the longest spacewalk by a woman astronaut. She has spent a total of 322 days in space during two missions.
Sunita’s father is an Indian (from Gujarat) and mother an American. Talking about her Indian connection, she said her father told her about the partition of India and Mahatma Gandhi while her mother told her about Mother Teressa.
She revealed that during her space misisons, she carried a copy of the Upanishads and the Bhagvad Gita with her. “I also carried samosas … you can never have enough,” she said while referring to her love for Indian food.
Williams said she has “pretty much seen the whole of India” from space but would love to explore more like the South and also the Himalayas.
“My father is from Ahmedabad. So, I have seen that part of India. In this trip, I’m excited to see eastern side of India. I have never been there,” Williams said.
Williams, who last came to India in 2007, will now go to Kolkata where she would address a huge gathering of around 2,200 children. From there, she would proceed to Mumbai before going to Gujarat.
She wished for India to produce more astronauts like Kalpana Chawla, who was the first Indian-born woman to go into space.