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Sunita Williams brings a taste of India to space aboard Boeing’s Starliner


Boeing’s Starliner has made history by successfully docking with the International Space Station (ISS) on its first crewed test flight, carrying astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams on a week-long mission. Among the scientific instruments and essential supplies, the spacecraft also delivered a unique cultural cargo that reflects the rich heritage of its pilot.

Sunita Williams, an Indian American astronaut and the first woman to pilot a test flight of an orbital spacecraft, has brought a slice of her cultural heritage to space. Williams has previously carried sacred Hindu texts such as the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, as well as an idol of Lord Ganesh, on her missions. This time, NASA confirmed to NDTV, she is bringing fish curry ensuring that the flavors of home are present in the cosmos.

On earlier flights, Williams delighted in sharing samosas, a beloved Indian snack, with her crewmates. However, NASA has confirmed to NDTV that samosas are not on the menu for this mission. Instead, the veteran astronaut will enjoy fish curry, bringing a different but equally cherished taste of India to the ISS.

The tradition of astronauts carrying personal and culturally significant items to space dates back to the early days of space exploration. These items provide comfort, a sense of connection to Earth, and a glimpse into the diverse backgrounds of those who venture beyond our planet. Buzz Aldrin brought communion wafers and wine on Apollo 11, while other astronauts have taken items like dirt from Yankee Stadium and Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber.

In addition to fish curry, Williams’ personal cargo on the Starliner included dog tags made for her two Labrador retrievers and colorful socks inspired by retired astronaut Shannon Lucid.

Food plays a particularly important role in space missions, not just for sustenance but also for morale and cultural exchange. Astronauts often bring dishes that hold cultural significance, adding variety and a sense of home to their diet in space. The culinary diversity on the ISS has seen sushi, macarons, satay, kimchee, and even pizza, freshly baked cookies, and espresso.

Cover graphic of fish curry: Wikimedia

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