Q. When you were first free from the clutches of gravity after lift-off, can you describe the physical and mental feeling?
A. When you lift off the pressure is supposed to be maximum. But actually it was very benign. Very enjoyable. But as soon as the engines cut off and you get to zero gravity, you felt as if you were being pushed off your seat. You feel disoriented. You don't feel aligned with anything. I felt for a few good hours that I was falling. In fact, you are in a free fall- that's what zero gravity is all about. But the first few hours, the workload was so much that it was hard to realise the magic of the experience. But afterwards the feeling was literally out of this world.
Q. What is the strangest thing about being in zero gravity?
A. One of the strangest things is that when I was about to sleep, I realised I was only aware of my thoughts. Because you are weightless you don't feel your legs or your body. In a sense then, you are just your intelligence. It's amazing you can't feel anything but your consciousness.
Q. How did you feel about becoming the first Indian woman to be in space?
A. I never truly thought of being the first or second someone. Or being a small-town girl. This is just something I wanted to do. It was very important for me to enjoy it. If you want to do something, what does it matter where you are ranked? Nor does being a woman make a difference. We were all just crew members.
Q. Did looking down at the earth from space change your concept of it?
A. It did. The first view of the earth is magical. All of us had grown fond of watching the Himalayas pass by. I saw the Brahmaputra and how it turned to meet the Ganges. And the Ganges delta looked very serene. What is mindboggling is the tremendous speed we were going at. We crossed the Himalayas in less than two minutes, and then you realise, "Oh My God" within an hour and a half, we have gone around the whole planet. It is a very overpowering realisation that the earth is so small. The atmosphere looks like a ribbon with different colours hugging the earth. That, in addition, lends so much to its fragility. It affected me. I could not get over the notion that in such a small planet, with such a small ribbon of life, so much goes on.