Sunita Williams Biography
Married to Michael J. Williams, her family roots go back to Gujarat from her father's side. She carried a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, a small statue of Ganesha and some samosas into space. She completed her Masters in Engineering Management from the Florida Institute of Technology.
Her stint with NASA started in 1998. She flew into space on Space Shuttle mission STS-116, aboard the shuttle Discovery, on 10 December 2006. This mission specialist on STS-117 registered many firsts to her name when she landed back on earth on June 22, 2007. This renowned scientist became the first female space traveler to have longest spaceflight of 195 days along with four space walks with total time period of 29 hours and 17 minutes.
In September 2007, on her visit to India, Sunita Williams became the first Non-Resident Indian to be honored with Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Pratibha Award by World Gujarati Society.
Last Updated on : February 3, 2014
Sunita Williams, in full Sunita Lyn Williams, née Sunita Pandya, (born September 19, 1965, Euclid, Ohio, U.S.), American astronaut who set records on her two flights to the International Space Station (ISS).
In 1983 Williams entered the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. She was made an ensign in 1987 and reported for aviator training at the Naval Aviation Training Command. In July 1989 she began combat helicopter training. She flew in helicopter support squadrons during the preparations for the Persian Gulf War and the establishment of no-fly zones over Kurdish areas of Iraq, as well as in relief missions during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 in Miami.
In 1993 she became a naval test pilot, and she later became a test pilot instructor, flying more than 30 different aircraft and logging more than 2,770 flight hours. When selected for the astronaut program, she was stationed aboard the USS Saipan.
Williams completed an M.S. in engineering management from the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne in 1995, and she entered astronaut training in 1998. She traveled to Moscow, where she received training in robotics and other ISS operational technologies while working with the Russian Federal Space Agency and with crews preparing for expeditions to the ISS.
On December 9, 2006, Williams flew aboard the space shuttleDiscovery on the STS-116 mission to the ISS, where she was a flight engineer for Expeditions 14 and 15. During her stay at the space station, she made four space walks, totaling more than 29 hours outside the spacecraft, and spent a total of more than 195 days in space, both of which were records for women in space. (She held the latter record until 2015, when Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti spent more than 199 days in space.) She also participated in the Boston Marathon by running 42.2 km (26.2 miles) on the station’s treadmill. She was the second American astronaut of Indian heritage to go into space, after Kalpana Chawla, who died in the Columbia disaster. Williams landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California with the crew of STS-117 on June 22, 2007.
Williams flew to the ISS again on July 15, 2012, as part of the crew of SoyuzTMA-05M. She was a flight engineer on Expedition 32, and on September 16 she became commander of Expedition 33. She made three more space walks, totaling more than 21 hours, retaining her space walk record with a total time outside the ISS between her two flights of more than 50 hours. She also completed a triathlon in orbit by using a treadmill, a stationary bicycle, and a weightlifting machine to simulate the swimming portion of the race. Williams returned to Earth on November 11 after nearly 127 days in space. Her two spaceflights combined lasted more than 321 days, making her second, after American astronaut Peggy Whitson, for the most time spent in space by a woman.
In 2015 Williams was selected as one of four astronauts to make the first test flights in NASA’s Commercial Crew program, in which two new private crewed spacecraft, SpaceX’sDragon and Boeing’s CST-100, would take astronauts and supplies to the ISS. Flights were scheduled to begin in 2018.