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NASA selects second woman of Indian origin for space mission
Suman Guha Mozumder in New York |
January 03, 2003 20:22 IST
Five years after the space odyssey of Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian American astronaut to go into space, a second woman of Indian origin has been selected by NASA as a member of the backup crew for one of its space missions.
Thirty-seven year-old Sunita Lyn Williams nee Pandya was appointed along with two others, to serve as backup crew for the International Space Station Expedition 10.
Cdr Williams, a graduate of the US Naval Academy and selected in the astronaut class of 1998, will train as a space station flight engineer ahead of the mission.
Williams, whose parents Deepak N Pandya and Ursaline B Pandya live in Falmouth, Massachusetts, is married to Michael J Williams. Neither Williams nor her parents could be reached for comments at press time.
Unlike her two colleagues, Williams, who has been a helicopter pilot, a test pilot and test pilot instructor, will be a first time flier into space if the backup crew is needed. The NASA selected Sunita Williams in June 1998 and she reported for training two months later.
Astronaut candidates' training includes orientation briefings and tours, numerous scientific and technical briefings as well as intensive instruction in Shuttle and International Space Station systems. It also comprises physiological training as well as water and wilderness survival techniques.
Evidently Williams, who has been awarded two Navy Commendation medals, the Navy and Marine Crops Achievement medal and various other service awards, enjoys what she does.
During one such training in May last year in an underwater habitat called Aquarius, an underwater ocean laboratory located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and is 60-feet deep in Atlantic, Williams was almost ecstatic about her experience.
'Wow, what a day! First day in Aquarius and it was great! Action packed! Lots to see and do,' she was quoted as writing in her mission journal by the Aquarius journal. 'I miss my husband and my dog. Wondered how they were doing and laughed at their funny little characteristics that I miss,' Sunita Williams, who is an experienced navy diver, said.
NASA's official biography notes that although the Williams have no children, they have an awesome black Labrador retriever named Turbo.
In an article the USA Today quoted her as saying that she did take her training at the Aquarius very seriously. 'I came to the project a little later than the others. But the other day it hit me. This is not a simulator where, if something goes wrong, you can just open the door and go home,' she was quoted as saying.
Williams, who was born in Euclid, Ohio in 1965, considers Needham, Mass, from where she did her high schooling, as her hometown. When not at her work, Williams likes to swim, bike, windsurf and indulge in bow hunting.