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Tense times for astronaut's family

Posted by Ralph Ranalli June 20, 2007 09:24 AM

prayingboy.JPG
A Muslim boy prays for the safe return of astronaut Sunita Williams from space in Ahmadabad, India
(AP photo)

NEEDHAM

Astronaut Sunita Williams’s older sister, Dina Pandya, will breathe a sigh of relief when the shuttle Atlantis lands tomorrow at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after a tumultuous 12-day mission.

Pandya watched NASA TV round-the-clock last Thursday after the computer system crashed on the Russian side of the International Space Station. The computers control the craft’s oxygen and navigation systems.

“The quicker she gets home, the better,” said Pandya last week. “Everyone’s totally fine and safe. I feel confident she’ll get home safely.”

The shock of the computer meltdown came after NASA discovered that a piece of the shuttle's heat shield shortly after the June 8 launch. NASA officials have said they believe the heat shield is safe for the shuttle's reentry into the earth's atmosphere.

Williams, a Needham native, spent the last six months aboard the orbiting laboratory. She has logged more time in space than any other woman.

-– Lauren K. Meade

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