Sunita Williams

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Sunita Williams
Sunita Williams.jpg
NASA Astronaut
Nationality American
Status active
Born Euclid, Ohio, U.S.
Other occupation
Test pilot
Rank Captain, USN
Time in space
321 days 17 hours 15 minutes
Selection 1998 NASA Group
Total EVAs
Total EVA time
50 hours and 40 minutes
Missions STS-116, Expedition 14, Expedition 15, STS-117, Soyuz TMA-05M, Expedition 32, Expedition 33
Mission insignia
STS-116 ISS Expedition 14 ISS Expedition 15 STS-117 Soyuz TMA-05M Expedition 32 Expedition 33

Sunita Lyn "Suni" Williams née Pandya [1] (born September 19, 1965) is an American astronaut and United States Navy officer. She holds the records for longest single space flight by a woman (195 days),[2] total spacewalks by a woman (seven), and most spacewalk time for a woman (50 hours, 40 minutes).[3][4]

Williams 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.

Ancestry and early life[edit]

Sunita Williams was born in Euclid, Ohio, to Indian American neuroanatomist Deepak Pandya and Slovene American Ursuline Bonnie Pandya (née Zalokar), who have three children and reside in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Sunita is the youngest of three siblings, her brother Jay Thomas is four years older and her sister Dina Anna is three years older.

Williams’ paternal ancestry is from Jhulasan, Mehsana district in Gujarat, India, while her maternal great grandmother Mary Bohinc (originally Marija Bohinjec), born 5 September 1890 in Leše, immigrated to America as an eleven year old girl with her mother, an 1891 Slovene emigrant Ursula Bohinc née Strajhar.[5][6]

Williams graduated from Needham High School in Needham, Massachusetts, in 1983. She received 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.[2]

Military career[edit]

Williams was commissioned an ensign in the United States Navy in May 1987. After a six-month temporary assignment at the Naval Coastal System Command, she was designated a Basic Diving Officer. She next reported to the Naval Air Training Command, where she was designated a Naval Aviator in July 1989. She received initial H-46 Sea Knight training in Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 3 (HC-3), and was then assigned to Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 8 (HC-8) in Norfolk, Virginia, with which she made overseas deployments to the Mediterranean, Red Sea and the Persian Gulf for 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. In January 1993, Williams began training at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. She graduated in December, 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. Later, she was 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 as the school's Safety Officer. There she flew the UH-60, OH-6, and the OH-58. She then went to the USS Saipan as the Aircraft Handler and the Assistant Air Boss. Williams was deployed on the Saipan in June 1998 when she was selected by NASA for the astronaut program.[2]

She has logged more than 3,000 flight hours in more than 30 aircraft types.[2]

NASA career[edit]

Astronaut Sunita L. Williams, STS-116 mission specialist, participates in the mission's third planned session of extravehicular activity (EVA).

Williams began her Astronaut Candidate training at the Johnson Space Center in August 1998.[2]

Spaceflight experience[edit]


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, changing to Expedition 15.

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.[7]

Expeditions 14 and 15[edit]

Williams became the first person to run the Boston Marathon from the space station on April 16, 2007.

After launching aboard the Shuttle Discovery, Williams arranged to donate her pony tail to Locks of Love. Fellow astronaut Joan Higginbotham cut her hair aboard the International Space Station and the ponytail was brought back to Earth by the STS-116 crew.[8]

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 because the attaching device failed, and floated off to space before Williams could react.[9]

Sunita L. Williams and Joan E. Higginbotham (foreground) (STS-116 mission specialist) refer to a procedures checklist as they work the controls of the Canadarm2 in the International Space Station's Destiny laboratory.

On the third spacewalk, Williams was outside the station for 6 hours and 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.[2][4] 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.[10][11]

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. When she opened 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.[12]

On April 16, 2007, she ran the first marathon by a person in orbit.[13] Williams finished the 2007 Boston Marathon in four hours and 24 minutes .[14][15][16] The other crew members 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.

On April 26, 2007, NASA decided 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, but did break the record for longest single spaceflight by a woman.[2][17][18]

Williams served as a mission specialist and returned to Earth on June 22, 2007, at the end of the STS-117 mission. Poor weather at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral forced mission managers to skip three landing attempts there over previous 24 hours. They then diverted Atlantis to Edwards Air Force Base in California, where the shuttle touched down at 3:49 p.m. EDT, returning Williams home after a record 192-day stay in space.

Expeditions 32 and 33[edit]

Williams exercises on COLBERT during ISS Expedition 32.

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.[19] 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.[20] She became the commander of the International Space Station on September 17, 2012, being only the second woman to achieve the feat.[21] 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.[22] 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.[22]

She returned 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 (22 mi) from the planned touchdown site due to a procedural delay.[23]


Sunita Williams, Expedition 32 flight engineer, appears to touch the bright sun during a spacewalk conducted on 5 September 2012.

As of November 2012, Williams has made seven spacewalks totaling 50 hours and 40 minutes,[24] putting Williams in No. 5 on the list of most experienced spacewalkers.[25]

On August 30, 2012, Williams and JAXA astronaut Hoshide ventured outside the ISS to conduct US EVA-18. They removed and replaced the failing Main Bus Switching Unit-1 (MBSU-1), and installed a thermal cover onto Pressurized Mating Adapter-2 (PMA-2).[26]

2007 visit to India[edit]

In September 2007, Williams visited India. She went to the Sabarmati Ashram, the ashram set up by Mahatma Gandhi in 1915, and her ancestral village Jhulasan in Gujarat. She was awarded the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Vishwa Pratibha Award by the World Gujarati Society,[27] the first person of Indian descent who was not an Indian citizen to be presented the award. On October 4, 2007, Williams spoke at the American Embassy School, and then met Manmohan Singh, the then Prime Minister of India.[28]

2014 visit to Slovenia[edit]

From Oct 4 to Oct 8, 2014, Sunita Williams visited Slovenia. During her stay, amongst other things, she paid a visit to the Astronomical Society Vega - Ljubljana.[29][30]

Personal life[edit]

Sunita [31]was known to be a Ganesh devotee.[32]

Williams is married to Michael J. Williams, a Federal police officer in Oregon. The two have been married for more than 20 years, and both flew helicopters in the early days of their careers. She has a pet Jack Russell Terrier named Gorby who was featured with her on the "Dog Whisperer" television show on the National Geographic Channel on November 12, 2010.[33]

Her recreational interests include running, swimming, biking, triathlons, windsurfing, snowboarding and bow hunting. She is an avid Boston Red Sox fan.

Williams has expressed a desire to adopt a girl from Ahmedabad.[34]


Honors and awards[edit]

This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the Polish Wikipedia.

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

  1. ^ "Astronaut Biography: Sunita Williams". Retrieved March 17, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g NASA (2007). "Sunita L. Williams (Commander, USN)". National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved December 19, 2007. 
  3. ^ "Spacewalking astronauts conquer stiff bolt, install key power unit on 2nd trip outside". Associated Press. 2012. Retrieved September 6, 2012. [dead link]
  4. ^ a b Tariq Malik (2007). "Orbital Champ: ISS Astronaut Sets New U.S. Spacewalk Record". Retrieved December 19, 2007. 
  5. ^ Sunita Williams in her maternal ancestors' homeland one more time, Delo, March 26, 2013
  6. ^ Sunita Williams to start her India trip from April 1, The Times of India, March 31, 2013
  7. ^ SiliconIndia (2006). "With Ganesh, the Gita and samosas, Sunita Williams heads for the stars". SiliconIndia. Retrieved December 19, 2007. 
  8. ^ (2006-12-20). "Astronaut cuts her hair in space for charity". Collect Retrieved 2007-06-08. 
  9. ^ "Astronaut's Camera is Lost In Space". 2006-12-22. Retrieved 2007-06-08. 
  10. ^ CollectSpace (2007). "Astronauts make 100th station spacewalk". CollectSpace. Retrieved December 18, 2007. 
  11. ^ NASA (2007). "Spacewalkers Find No Solar Wing Smoking Gun". NASA. Retrieved December 18, 2007. 
  12. ^ Schneider, Mike (2007-03-02). Space station suffers "wasabi spill". MSNBC. Retrieved 2007-03-02. 
  13. ^ Eldora Valentine (2007-04-06). "Race From Space Coincides with Race on Earth". NASA. Retrieved 2007-06-08. 
  14. ^ Zee News Limited (2007-04-17). "Sunita Williams Runs Marathon in Space". Retrieved 2007-06-08. 
  15. ^ Jimmy Golen for The Associated Press (2007). "Astronaut to run Boston Marathon — in space". MSNBC. Retrieved December 19, 2007. 
  16. ^ NASA (2007). "NASA Astronaut to Run Boston Marathon in Space". NASA. Retrieved December 19, 2007. 
  17. ^ Amateur Radio News (2007-02-05). "Ham-astronauts setting records in space". Amateur Radio News. Retrieved 2007-06-08. 
  18. ^ Mike Schneider for The Associated Press (2007). "Astronaut stuck in space — for now". MSNBC. Retrieved December 19, 2007. 
  19. ^ "Sunita Williams' spacecraft docks with ISS". The Times Of India. 17 July 2012. 
  20. ^ "Sunita Williams takes over command at International Space Station". The Times Of India. 2012-09-17. 
  21. ^ "Indian-American astronaut Sunita williams takes over command at space station". Indian Express. Retrieved 2012-09-17. 
  22. ^ a b
  23. ^ Staff writer (November 19, 2012). "Sunita Williams returns to Earth after 4 months in space". India Today. 
  24. ^ NASA (6 Sep 2012). "Williams, Hoshide Complete MBSU Installation". Retrieved 7 Sep 2012. 
  25. ^ William Harwood (1 November 2012). "Astronauts bypass station cooling system on spacewalk". Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  26. ^ Pete Harding, Chris Bergin and William Graham (14 July 2012). "Soyuz TMA-05M launches trio to the International Space Station". Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  27. ^ "Sunita Williams". Retrieved 2012-05-24. 
  28. ^ American Embassy School (2007-10-05). "Astronaut Sunita Williams Visits AES". American Embassy School. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ [[[:Template:Reference archive]] Bhagavad Gita, Lord Ganesha took care of me in space: Sunita] - Indo-Asian News Service, July 20, 2007
  32. ^ Meghdoot Sharon - [[[:Template:Reference archive]] Red carpet welcome awaits Sunita Williams in Gujarat] - CNN-IBN, September 18, 2007
  33. ^ Dog Whisperer: Astronaut Dogs & Mongo, National Geographic Channel, November 12, 2010
  34. ^ "Astronaut Sunita Williams to adopt Gujarati girl". The Times Of India. 27 June 2012. 
  35. ^ "Sunita Williams receives Padma Bhushan". Retrieved 5 July 2008. 
  36. ^ "Sunita Williams conferred with Honorary Doctorate by Gujarat Technological University, India (2013)". 
  37. ^ "Predsednik republike podpisal ukaz o podelitvi odlikovanja Suniti Williams". Retrieved 20 May 2013. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Gennady Padalka
ISS Expedition Commander
16 September to 18 November 2012
Succeeded by
Kevin Ford