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Indian Students Thrilled to Talk to Sunita Williams

To the students gathered for a live chat with Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams, it was extremely exciting to view her as she spoke from her zero-gravity// home among the stars, her hair flying upwards and necklace floating loosely, a scientific fact they had only read about in books before.

It was equally thrilling to be able to see and speak with three astronauts at the same platform - Sunita and fellow astronaut Michael Lopez-Algeria, both in the International Space Station (ISS) orbiting more than 400 km above Earth, and India's first astronaut Rakesh Sharma, who was present at the American Centre here where the event was held Wednesday night.

There were nearly 60 students, some from far off Kolkata, Patiala and Chandigarh, who had come to interact with the astronauts.

"I am very happy. We saw space live. I just cannot explain the experience," said Mayank Gureja, a student of Amity International School here.

"We could not have asked for more. We saw three astronauts on one platform. While Rakesh Sharma was present actually among us, the other two were present virtually through the satellite communication," added Gureja, his eyes shining with excitement.

Sunita interacted with the Indian students and media persons for 10 minutes, answering their queries through a satellite phone connected at the American Centre.

Leela, a student of Vivek High School, Chandigarh, was happy to be present. "Though I could not ask any question, I was happy to see three astronauts," she said.

"We had read about zero gravity in books, but today we saw it," she said after watching Sunita.

Yogeshwar Singh, a teacher of Vivek High School, said their coming from Chandigarh had proved to be fruitful as they managed to see as well as interact with the astronauts.

The students said a polite "Thank you" at the end of every question they asked and were very attentive.

Sunita, who was attired in a sky-blue half-sleeves shirt and grey shorts, smiled before answering the first question asked by a student from Patiala.

Abhishek Aggarwal, the Patiala student, had a query on future settlements in space and the growing terror threat on earth. Sunita, who is a graduate of the US Naval Academy, in her answer said: "Thanks, it's an important point. Space has no borders. Here every one works together. I wish I could share this with you."

The enthusiastic students, most of whom were part of the Asian regional Space Settlement Design Competition, asked questions ranging from what she did with the samosas she had taken along with her, what it feels like to be in space and can she speak in Hindi?

But many questions went unanswered as Sunita went off line 10 minutes after she began her chat. She received applause for her statement, "India is a colourful country."

Students asked Rakesh Sharma, who went up in space in 1984, how it felt to view another group of astronauts in space.

To a question on what his most valuable memory was during his space mission, Sharma said: "My first view of India from space was most amazing."

The former astronaut also said he would be the happiest person to see a manned mission to moon by Indian scientists in the near future.

"India is capable of doing it and I would be the happiest person."


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