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Sunita Returns June 21 After 194-day Record Space Odyssey

Indian American astronaut, Sunita Williams is all set to return home June 21 after a record breaking 194-day space odyssey by a woman with the mission managers giving the green signal.

Sunita and six other astronauts who came June 10 to fetch her bid farewell to her replacement Clayton Anderson and two Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station (ISS) before the hatches between their spaceship and the station closed at 6.51 p.m. Monday (4.21 a.m. IST Tuesday).

"I'm sad to say goodbye, but that means progress is being made and it's time for the International Space Station to grow a little more," Williams told ground control before the astronauts floated into space shuttle Atlantis that would take them home.

Undocking at 10.42 a.m. (8.12 pm IST) Tuesday, Atlantis is scheduled to touchdown at Kennedy Space Centre, Florida at 1.54 p.m. (11.24 p.m. IST) Thursday, US space agency NASA said. Sunita had set off from here Dec 9 on space shuttle Discovery on what was to become the longest space journey by a woman.

Sunita, who with four excursions also holds the record for most space walks by a woman, crossed the new milestone Saturday surpassing the 188-day, 4-hour mark set by US astronaut Shannon Lucid in 1996 on a mission to the Russian Mir space station.

The Atlantis received the go-ahead Monday after the Space Station's revived Russian computers passed a final test. The station's three main computers had crashed shortly after astronauts installed a new set of solar power panels to give it additional power in readiness for the arrival of new laboratories owned by the European and Japanese space agencies.

Space station commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineer Oleg Kotov were able to restore the system by bypassing suspect protection circuits. The computers control the firing of rocket thrusters needed to keep the station properly positioned in space for tracking the sun for
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