This is what ISRO chief S Somnath's message to Sunita Williams is all about

New Delhi:

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief Dr S Somnath in an exclusive interview to NDTV said that Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams' delayed return from the International Space Station (ISS) should not be seen as a cause for much concern as the ISS is a safe, long-term place.

“It is not just Sunita Williams or any other astronaut. Being stranded or stuck in a place is not something that we are facing at the moment. There are nine astronauts there, not all of them are stranded,” the ISRO chief told NDTV.

“They will all have to come back someday. The whole issue is about testing a new crew module called the Boeing Starliner, its ability to go there and then come back safely. Ground launch providers have adequate capabilities (to get them back home). That is not an issue. The ISS is a safe place for people to stay for a long time,” he said.

Dr. Somnath said, “Today when we are developing a spacecraft like Starliner, the question should be whether it can operate reliably for the forward and return journey. I believe this is what the concerned agencies are thinking about.”

He said ISRO is very proud of Ms Williams' courage.

Dr Somnath said, “We are all proud of him. He has many missions to his name. It is a brave thing to travel on the first flight of a new spacecraft. He himself is part of the design team and has used inputs from his experience. We are also building a crew module and I can understand the kind of conversations he must have had. We have experience, but he has much more experience than us. I wish him all the best to return successfully, learn from it and contribute to the construction of the spacecraft.”

When asked if ISRO would take his services as a consultant for the Indian space programme, Dr. Somnath said the space agency always welcomes all those who give suggestions.

“The space programme is ultimately for the entire humanity. One nation can make a spacecraft, but it is for humanity. Who knows, tomorrow our spacecraft will go there for a rescue mission of some other nation,” the ISRO chief said.

Last week, NASA postponed the return of the Boeing Starliner carrying the first crew of astronauts to Earth from the International Space Station to allow more time to review technical problems.

The American astronauts, Barrett “Butch” Wilmore and Ms. Williams, flew on June 5 as a final demonstration mission to receive regular flight certification from NASA.

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