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Astronaut's father: she dreams of going to the moon

Posted by Martin Finucane June 20, 2007 05:21 PM

NEEDHAM

Astronaut Sunita Williams’s father, Dr. Deepak Pandya, radiated pride today after watching a news conference between the shuttle Atlantis crew and television reporters.

“[Suni] was answering the questions very nicely. She looks good,” said Pandya, of Falmouth. “She appeared to be quite happy.”

The Atlantis is scheduled to land at 1:55 p.m. tomorrow at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Weather forecasts show the possibility of thunderstorms in the area. The landing could be delayed to 3:30 p.m. if the weather is bad, according to NASA.

As the hours tick toward Williams’s return, Pandya said he is focusing on the joy of the occasion rather than the dangers.

“We are God-loving people,” said Pandya. “We leave everything in the hands of God. We don’t worry.”

Pandya acknowledged that last week was a tough one. Astronauts repaired a tear in the shuttle’s thermal blanket and also dealt with a crash in the computers that operate the space station’s oxygen and navigation systems.

“At that time we had many ups and downs in our minds,” said Pandya.

Pandya and his wife, Bonnie, will wait for Williams in Houston, where NASA is headquartered. Only Williams’s husband, Michael, is allowed to meet with the astronaut immediately after her landing in Florida, said Pandya. He said he expects his daughter to arrive in Texas sometime next week. Astronauts may take at least two days to be able to walk after space travel, he said.

After Williams recovers from her six-month stay aboard the International Space Station, the astronaut is planning to travel across the United States and possibly India, said Pandya.

She has received dozens of invitations to talk with schoolchildren in Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and her hometown Needham. Pandya said Williams also has received an invitation from the Red Sox to throw the first pitch at one of the team's games.

Even while she's been in space, the astronaut has spoken of embarking on more cosmic adventures, her father said.

“She has talked about going to the moon,” said Pandya.

-- Lauren K. Meade

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