Washington: Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams, who holds the record of the longest space flight (195 days) for a woman, has taken off on her second space odyssey to the International Space Station.
The Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft carrying Williams, 46, Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko of Russia and Akihiko Hoshide of Japan, blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 8.40 am Sunday (8.10 am India Time), NASA said.
They will dock to the Rassvet module Tuesday at 12:52 a.m. to join Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Sergei Revin at the space station. Williams will take over as Commander when the old team returns.
Daughter of an Indian American father from Gujarat and a Slovenian mother, Williams and her colleagues will be aboard the station during an exceptionally busy period that includes two spacewalks, the arrival of Japanese, US commercial and Russian resupply vehicles, and an increasingly faster pace of scientific research, the US space agency said.
Williams is the second woman of Indian heritage to have been selected by NASA for a space mission after Kalpana Chawla and the second astronaut of Slovenian heritage after Ronald M. Sega.
She holds three records for female space travellers: longest spaceflight (195 days), number of spacewalks (four), and total time spent on spacewalks (29 hours and 17 minutes) during her first space journey in 2006.
A 1987 graduate of the US Naval Academy, Williams served in various roles as a Navy officer before being selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1998. She received a master's degree from the Florida Institute of Technology in 1995.