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Sunita Williams: At home in air, water - and space
Suman Guha Mozumder in New York | December 06, 2006 19:14 IST
Born September 19, 1965 in Euclid, Ohio, Sunita Williams nee Pandya has been waiting some time for her first space journey.
"It's been like a roller coaster ride because sometimes it is fun and sometimes it is not so fun. There are ups and downs here and there, particularly with the accident and stuff," she said. "When I first got in NASA, we were all thinking that we are going to fly the next year or the year after that. You still had those feelings like, 'Oh my God, I am an astronaut.' It feels so wonderful, so great! You think everything is going to happen before long and then the reality sets in." Williams, who is finally slated to go to space December 7, said in an interview earlier this year.
"But in the meantime, we learnt all about the space shuttle and the space station on a general basis. It is so much fun to be here and part of the whole thing that is going on. That usually takes about a year and a half or two years for all that basic training," Williams said.
"Then you start having a job and my job initially was working with the Russians and then Expedition 1 for the procedures for the space station. Secondly I got a job with the robotics and that was great because I love the whole aspect of robotics work being done in space. So, there are all those were great jobs but you are also wondering, 'Hey, will I ever fly?' Unfortunately we had the accident in 2003 and things got further delayed." she said. That was the Columbia disaster that claimed the life of the first woman astronaut of Indian origin, Kalpana Chawla.
Williams received her commission as an ensign in the United States Navy from the United States Naval Academy in May 1987 after completing her BS in Physical Science from the US Naval Academy in 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 Naval Aviation Training Command. Williams was designated a naval aviator in July 1989.
She was deployed in the Persian Gulf as part of Desert Shield and Operation Provide Comfort. In September 1992 she was the officer-in-charge of an H-46 detachment on board the USS Sylvania sent to Miami, Florida, for relief operations in the wake of Hurricane Andrew.
Williams was selected for the United States Naval Test Pilot School from where she graduated in 1993.
She has logged over 2,770 flight hours on more than 30 different aircraft. NASA selected her for Astronaut Candidate Training in August 1998.
Williams worked in Moscow with the Russian Space Agency on the Russian contribution to the International Space Station and with the first expedition crew that had been to the ISS. Following the return of Expedition-1, she worked within the Robotics branch on the ISS Robotic Arm and the follow on Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator. As a crew member on NEEMO 2 she lived underwater in the Aquarius habitat for nine days.