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Dad proud as shuttle heads home

The father of astronaut Sunita Williams radiated pride -- tempered by anxiety -- yesterday after watching a televised news conference between the shuttle Atlantis crew and reporters.

"[Suni] was answering the questions very nicely. She looks good," said Dr. Deepak Pandya, of Falmouth.

The Atlantis is scheduled to land today at 1:55 p.m. at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Weather forecasts indicate the possibility of thunderstorms in the area, which could delay the landing.

With the imminent return of Williams, who is from Needham, Pandya said he is focusing on the joy of the occasion rather than the dangers. "We are God-loving people," said Pandya. "We leave everything in the hands of God."

Pandya and his wife, Bonnie, will wait for Williams in Houston, where NASA is headquartered. Only Williams's husband, Michael, will be allowed to meet with the astronaut immediately after her landing in Florida from her six-month mission, said Pandya.

LAUREN K. MEADE

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