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NASA astronaut Sunita Williams to vote, watch London Olympics from space

Williams, who blasted off on a Russian rocket for her second space mission on Sunday, is a sports lover and Florida-registered voter.

Sunita Williams NASAEnlarge
Astronaut Sunita Williams of the US gestures before boarding the Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome on July 15, 2012. (VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images)

Sunita Williams, the NASA astronaut who blasted off on a Russian rocket for her second space mission on Sunday, plans to watch the Olympics and cast her vote in the US presidential election from the International Space Station.

The Press Trust of India reported that Williams, 46 — who is of Indian origin but grew up in Massachusetts — Russian Soyuz commander Yuri Malenchenko and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency flight engineer Akihiko Hoshide began their space journey on a Soyuz rocket which took off successfully from Baikonur cosmodromein Kazakhstan.

A sports lover who swam and ran cross country in the Naval Academy, Williams said that she would catch the London action when she could from the station.

"Well, of course. It's, I mean, the Olympics, what is it — it's an international competition, to foster friendship and, and competition across, across the planet, and I think that's exactly what the International Space Station is," she reportedly said.

The US election, meantime, will fall six days before her scheduled return to earth on Nov 12.

"There's a program called Voting from Space," she said.

"We're working through it right now. I'm actually a Florida voter so ... we had to have a little bit more work involved. — Texas has already, worked through the process — and I, I will actually be voting from space."

The New York Daily News cited the US space agency as saying that the team was arriving at the station during an otherwise busy period, involving two spacewalks, the arrival of Japanese, US commercial and Russian resupply vehicles.

Williams, the second woman of Indian heritage to have been chosen by NASA for a space mission, also holds three records for female space travelers: longest space flight (195 days), number of spacewalks (four), and total time spent on spacewalks (29 hours and 17 minutes).

In an interview with India's Economic Times, Williams' father, Deepak Pandya, 80 —  a renowned Boston-based neuroanatomist — as saying he was less anxious this time around.

"Sunita is used to life in a space station," said Pandya, who is originally from Gujarat.

"This time she will be involved in experiments dealing with survival of long-duration flights for distant space travel."

According to the ET, Williams — married to a US police officer — has an affinity with her heritage, carrying a copy of the Bhagavad Gita and an idol of Lord Ganesha during her 2007 space trip.

"She has always been a spiritual person. She has a background of Christian and Hindu religions. She respects all people and their religious beliefs," Pandya reportedly said. 

Williams' mother is Slovenian.

More from GlobalPost: Why is Russia prosecuting a dead man?
 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/120716/sunita-williams-nasa-astronaut-russia-rocket-olympics-us-presidential-election