Sunita Williams (born Sunita Pandya Krishna; September 19, 1965) is an Indian American astronaut and a United States Navy officer who holds the record for longest space flight by a woman. She was assigned to the International Space Station as a member of Expedition 14 and Expedition 15. In 2012, she served as a flight engineer on Expedition 32 and then commander of Expedition 33. In addition to holding the record for the longest space flight time among female space travelers she holds the record for number of spacewalks for a female, and most spacewalk time for a female. Williams first broke the two spacewalk records for women space travellers—most number of spacewalks, and most spacewalk time—during Expedition 14/15 in 2007, but both records were surpassed by Peggy Whitson during Expedition 16. Williams regained both records during her sixth spacewalk, on September 5, 2012, and currently has 50 hours and 40 minutes of spacewalk time (seven walks).
Sunita Williams was born in Euclid, Ohio, to Deepak Pandya and Bonnie Pandya, who reside in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Deepak Pandya is a well-known neuroanatomist. Williams’ paternal ancestry originates in Gujarat in India, and that of her mother in Slovenia.
Williams attended Needham High School in Needham, Massachusetts, graduating in 1983. She went on to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical science from the United States Naval Academy in 1987, and a Master of Science degree in Engineering Management from Florida Institute of Technology in 1995
Williams received her commission as an Ensign in the United States Navy from the United States Naval Academy in May 1987. After a six-month temporary assignment at the Naval Coastal System Command, she received her designation as a Basic Diving Officer and then reported to the Naval Air Training Command. She was designated a Naval Aviator in July 1989. She then reported to Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 3 (HC-3) for initial H-46 Sea Knight training. Upon completion of this training, she was assigned to Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 8 (HS-8) in Norfolk, Virginia, and made overseas deployments to the Mediterranean, Red Sea and the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Provide Comfort. In September 1992 she was the Officer-in-Charge of an H-46 detachment sent to Miami, Florida for Hurricane Andrew relief operations aboard the USS Sylvania. Williams was selected for the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and began the course in January 1993. After graduation in December 1993, she was assigned to the Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Directorate as an H-46 Project Officer and V-22 chase pilot in the T-2. While there she was also assigned as the squadron Safety Officer and flew test flights in the SH-60B/F, UH-1, AH-1W, SH-2, VH-3, H-46, CH-53 and the H-57. In December 1995, she went back to the Naval Test Pilot School as an instructor in the Rotary Wing Department and the school's Safety Officer. There she flew the UH-60, OH-6 and the OH-58. From there she was assigned to the USS Saipan as the Aircraft Handler and the Assistant Air Boss. Williams was deployed on the Saipan when she was selected for the astronaut program.
She has logged over 3,000 flight hours in more than 30 different aircraft
Selected by NASA in June 1998, Williams began her training at the Johnson Space Center in August 1998. Her Astronaut Candidate training included orientation briefings and tours, numerous scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in Space Shuttle and International Space Station systems, physiological training and ground school to prepare for T-38 flight training, as well as learning water and wilderness survival techniques. She surpassed Kathryn Thornton, who had three spacewalks, as the woman with the most spacewalks. Peggy Whitson later surpassed her for woman with the most spacewalks. Following a period of training and evaluation, Williams worked in Moscow with the Russian Space Agency on the Russian contribution to the ISS, and with the first expedition crew sent to the ISS. Following the return of Expedition 1, Williams worked within the Robotics branch on the ISS Robotic Arm and the related Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator. She was a crew member on the NEEMO 2 mission, living underwater in the Aquarius habitat for nine days in May 2002.
As of 2008, Williams serves as NASA's Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Office. She was assigned as a backup crew member for Expedition 30 to the International Space Station, is a crew member of Expedition 32, which launched in July 2012, and then became the Commander of Expedition 33, which began in September 2012.
Like many astronauts, Williams is a licensed amateur radio operator, having passed the technician class license exam in 2001, and was issued the call sign KD5PLB by the Federal Communications Commission on August 13, 2001. She used one of the two amateur radio stations aboard the ISS when she talked with school children.
Williams was selected to appear on the The Colbert Report to announce that "Tranquility" was the winning name for Node 3 of the ISS.
Williams was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) with STS-116, aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, on December 9, 2006 to join the Expedition 14 crew. In April 2007, the Russian members of the crew rotated,
Among the personal items Williams took with her to the ISS were a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, a small figurine of the Hindu deity Ganesha and some samosas
After launching aboard the Shuttle Discovery, Williams arranged to donate her pony tail to Locks of Love. The haircut by fellow astronaut Joan Higginbotham occurred aboard the International Space Station and the ponytail was brought back to earth with the STS-116 crew.
Williams performed her first extra-vehicular activity on the eighth day of the STS-116 mission. On January 31, February 4, and February 9, 2007, she completed three spacewalks from the ISS with Michael López-Alegría. During one of these walks a camera became untethered, probably due to failure of the attaching device, and floated off to space, before Williams could react
On the third spacewalk, Williams was outside the station for 6 hours 40 minutes to complete three spacewalks in nine days. She has logged 29 hours and 17 minutes in four spacewalks, eclipsing the record held by Kathryn C. Thornton for most spacewalk time by a woman. On December 18, 2007, during the fourth spacewalk of Expedition 16, Peggy Whitson surpassed Williams, with a cumulative EVA time of 32 hours, 36 minutes.
In early March 2007 she received a tube of wasabi in a Progress spacecraft resupply mission in response to her request for more spicy food. Opening the tube, which was packaged at one atmospheric pressure, the gel-like paste was forced out in the lower pressure of the ISS. In the free-fall environment, the spicy geyser was difficult to contain.
On April 16, 2007, she ran the first marathon by an astronaut in orbit. Williams finished the 2007 Boston Marathon in four hours and 24 minutes .The other crew members reportedly cheered her on and gave her oranges during the race. Williams' sister, Dina Pandya, and fellow astronaut Karen L. Nyberg ran the marathon on Earth, and Williams received updates on their progress from Mission Control. In 2008, Williams participated in the Boston Marathon again, this time on Earth. That same year, on the game show Duel, a question was made from that event. The answers were: London, New York, International Space Station, Paris. The most correct was the ISS.
Following the decision on April 26, 2007 to bring Williams back to Earth on the STS-117 mission aboard Atlantis, she did not break the U.S. single spaceflight record that was recently broken by former crewmember Commander Michael López-Alegría. However, she did break the record for longest single spaceflight by a woman.
Williams served as a mission specialist and returned to Earth on June 22, 2007 at the end of the STS-117 mission. Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down at Edwards Air Force Base in California at 3:49 p.m. EDT, returning Williams home after a record 195-day stay in space.
Williams launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 15, 2012 as part of Expedition 32/33. Her Russian spacecraft Soyuz TMA-05M docked with the ISS for a four-month stay at the orbiting outpost on 17 July 2012. The docking of the Soyuz occurred at 4:51 GMT as the ISS flew over Kazakhstan at an altitude of 252 miles. The hatchway between the Soyuz spacecraft and the ISS was opened at 7:23 GMT and Williams floated into the ISS to begin her duties as a member of the Expedition 32 crew. She was accompanied on the Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Aki Hoshide and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko. Williams served as commander of the ISS during her stay onboard ISS Expedition 33, succeeding Gennady Padalka. She became the commander of the International Space Station on September 17, 2012, being only the second woman to achieve the feat.Also in September 2012, she became the first person to do a triathlon in space, which coincided with the Nautica Malibu Triathlon held in Southern California on Earth. 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 (ARED) to do weightlifting and resistance exercises that approximate swimming in microgravity. After "swimming" half a mile (0.8 km), biking 18 miles (29 km), and running 4 miles (6.4 km), Williams finished with a time of one hour, 48 minutes and 33 seconds, as she reported.
She returned back to earth with fellow astronauts Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko and Aki Hoshide on 19 November 2012, touching down in the town of Arkalyk,Kazakhstan. Helicopters joined the search-and-recovery crew to assist them, as their capsule parachuted down some 35 kilometres from the planned touchdown site due to a procedural delay
Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams , who holds the feat of completing the longest space flight for a woman, received the Padma Bhushan -- India's second highest civilian award -- in Houston for her outstanding achievements.
Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams has taken over the command of the International Space Station, becoming the second woman in history to do so, even as a three-member crew of the Expedition 32 returned safely to earth, wrapping up a mission lasting more than four months.
The three-man crew onboard a Russian-made Soyuz capsule touched down successfully in central Kazakhstan steppe on Monday morning after spending 123 days at the Space Station.
Indian Consul General S M Gavai presented her with the award at a function, which was attended by large number of Indian-Americans.
Dressed in a purple kurta and matching pleated printed salwar, she spoke briefly at the gathering and mingled freely with those present.
The astronaut, who was accompanied by her father Deepak Pandya, expressed happiness on the recognition.
"It is a great honour. I am elated," she said. Recounting her experience in space, where she remained for 195 days, Sunita said, "Earth looks beautiful from space as there are no borders on the planet. Sometimes we think we have borders because we are male, female, of different religions or have differently coloured skin. Well you don't, they are just in your mind and they are not real."
"I could see this borderless world only after I went to space, but there are people like Mahatma Gandhi , who could visualise all this even without going to space. Gandhiji's vision of keeping people at peace together is really a cornerstone of humanity," Sunita added.
Flight Engineers Suni Williams and Aki Hoshide completed their second spacewalk in less than a week at 1:34 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Sept. 5. They completed the installation of a Main Bus Switching Unit (MBSU) that was hampered last week by a possible misalignment and damaged threads where a bolt must be placed. They also installed a camera on the International Space Station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2.
Flight Engineer Joe Acaba operated the Canadarm2 and monitored the spacewalkers from inside the International Space Station. Hoshide rode the Canadarm2 attached to a portable foot restraint to the MBSU worksite.
Wednesday’s spacewalk lasted 6 hours and 28 minutes.
Williams' and Hoshide's previous spacewalk on Aug. 30 lasted eight hours and 17 minutes making it the third longest in U.S. spaceflight history. It was originally scheduled for 6.5 hours before mission controllers and the astronauts struggled to install the MBSU.
Sunita achieved the unparalleled feat of completing the longest space flight by a woman after remaining in space for 195 days last year. She is also the only woman and Indian American astronaut after Kalpana Chawla to go into space.
ust after the Soyuz spacecraft separated from the space station on Sunday, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams took over command of Expedition 33 at the station from Commander Gennady Padalka, becoming the second woman in history to do so.
Williams will be sharing the Space Station with veteran Russia cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide until mid-October, when three more astronauts, including NASA astronaut Kevin Ford, will arrive and round out the full crew of Expedition 33.
"I would like to thank our (Expedition) 32 crew mates here who have taught us how to live and work in space, and of course to have a lot of fun up in space," Williams told Padalka during a change of command ceremony.
Flight engineer Joe Acaba of NASA, Padalka and flight engineer Sergei Revin of the Russian Federal Space Agency, landed north of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan on Monday morning.
They arrived at the station on May 17 and spent 125 days in space, 123 of which were aboard the orbiting laboratory.
The trio are expected to have a difficult time readjusting to life on earth, especially Revin and Acaba, who are coming off their first long-term stay aboard the orbiting international space lab, NASA sources said.
"The goal is to get their strength and all their function back to their preflight baseline," said NASA flight medical officer Steve Gilmore of the rehabilitation programs the three will undergo. "In 45 days, with folks working hard, typically we get people to where they were before they launched."
Acaba, Padalka and Revin orbited earth 2,000 times and traveled 52,906,428 miles.
Padalka now ranks fourth for the most days spent in space, a total of 711 days during four flights.