Sunita Williams' family, relatives celebrate her birthday

Ahmedabad, Sept 19 : The family and relatives of Indian-origin American astronaut Sunita Williams celebrated her birthday with fanfare in Gujarat today.

In Ahmedabad, Williams' father Dipak Pandya cut a cake.

"I wish her success in her coming up expeditions for exploration of space," said Pandya.

Students of the nearby Nelson School were present at the residence of Williams' uncle Vitthal Pandya.

Students of Tagore Bal Niketan School in Haryana's Karnal, where Kalpana Chawla studied, also extended their wishes to her.

"I extend my heartiest congratulations to Sunita Williams and hope she fulfils the unrealised dreams of the Kalpana Chawla. Whenever she comes here, we will welcome her," said Pallavi, a student.

Williams is expected to arrive on Thursday, months after completing her successful expedition aboard the space shuttle "Discovery".

Williams's ancestral home in Jhulasan village in Gujarat's Mehsana District is looking forward to welcoming her.

This quaint village, with a population of just about 5,000, is excited about the fact that one of its progeny has brought them fame.

Williams is visiting Ahmedabad after almost a decade.

Her last visit took place in 1998, when she accompanied an urn believed to contain the ashes of India-born astronaut Kalpana Chawla.

During her five-day visit to India, she will also go to Mahatma Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram and an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) facility.

Williams, 42, a graduate from the US Naval Academy and selected in the astronaut class of 1998, was appointed along with two others to serve as the backup crew for the International Space Station Expedition 10.

Born on September 19, 1965 in Ohio, US, Sunita married Michael J.Williams, a NASA co-worker. She is currently serving as lieutenant commander in the United States Navy. (With inputs from ANI)

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