Sunita Pandya Lyn Williams (born September 19, 1965) is an American astronaut and U.S Navy officer of Indo-Slovenian descent. She holds the records for total spacewalks by a woman (7) and most spacewalk time for a woman (50 hrs, 40 mins). Williams was assigned to the International Space Station as a member of Expedition 14 and Expedition 15, and in 2012, she served as a flight engineer on Expedition 32 and the commander of Expedition 33.
Sunita Williams- Early life and education
Sunita Williams was born in Euclid, Ohio, to Indian American neuroanatomist Deepak Pandya and Slovene American Ursuline Bonnie Zalokar, who reside in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Williams’ father’s family is from Gujarat, India.
Williams graduated from Needham Highschool in Needham, Massachusetts, in 1983. She pursued her undergraduate degree in physical science from the US Naval Academy in 1987 and a Masters degree in Engineering Management from Florida Institute of Technology in 1995.
Sunita Williams-Career in Military
After a 6 month temporary assignment at the Naval Coastal System Command, she was designated a Basic Diving Officer. On July 1989 she reported to the Naval Air Training Command, where she has worked as a Naval Aviator. She received H-46 Sea Knight training in Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 3 and was then assigned to Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 8, in Norfolk, Virginia. She was the Officer-in-charge of an H-46 detachment sent to Miami, Florida, for Hurricane Andrew relief operations in Sept 1992. A year later in 1993, Williams began training at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. By the end of December, she completed her graduation in and was assigned to the Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Directorate as an H-46 Project Officer and V-22 chase pilot in the T-2. She went back to the Naval Test Pilot School as an instructor in the Rotary Wing Department and as the school’s Safety Officer in December 1995. There she operated the UH-60, OH-6, and the OH-58. She was then appointed to USS Saipan as the Aircraft Handler and the Assistant Air Boss. In June 1998 Williams was deployed on Saipan when she was selected by NASA for the astronaut program.
Sunita Williams- Career in NASA
In August 1998, at the Johnson Space Center, Sunita Williams began her Astronaut Candidate training. On December 9, 2006, Williams was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) with STS-116, aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, to join the Expedition 14 crew. Four months later, the Russian members of the crew rotated, changing to Expedition 15.
On Jan 31, Feb 4, and Feb 9, 2007, she completed 3 spacewalks from the ISS. On the 3rd spacewalk, Williams was outside the station for 6 hrs and 40 mins to complete 3 spacewalks in 9 days. She has completed 29 hours and 17 minutes in four spacewalks. Williams served as a mission specialist and on June 22, 2007, she returned to Earth, at the end of the STS-117 mission.
She ran the first marathon by any person in space, on April 16, 2007. Williams was listed as an entrant for the 2007 Boston Marathon and completed the distance in 4 hours and 24 minutes.
As part of Expedition 32/33, on July 15, 2012, Williams launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. She was the second woman to become the commander of the International Space Station on September 17, 2012. She used the International Space Station’s own treadmill and stationary bike, and for the swimming portion of the race, she used the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device to do weightlifting and resistance exercises that approximate swimming in microgravity. After swimming 0.8 km, biking 29 km, and running 6.4 km, Williams finished with a time of 1 hour, 48 minutes and 33 seconds. As of August 2012, Williams has made 7 spacewalks with a total of 50 hours and 40 minutes.
She was assigned CTS-1, the first mission flight, to the International Space Station of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner on August 2018.
Sunita Williams- Personal life and Achievements
Williams is married to Michael J. Williams, a Federal police officer in Oregon. The two have been married for more than 20 years, and in 2012, they expressed a desire to adopt a girl from Ahmedabad.
She was awarded the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Vishwa Pratibha Award by the World Gujarati Society, the first person of Indian descent who was not an Indian citizen to be presented the award. The Needham School Committee named the town’s new primary school the Sunita L. Williams Primary School on June 7, 2017.
Video: Sunita Williams(Challenges of spacewalking)
Sunita Williams Quotes