Sunita Williams- A Star in Space…

Sunita Williams who holds the records for longest single space flight by women, maximum spacewalks by women and most spacewalk time for a women will be celebrating her 53rd birthday on 19th September. She has proven to be a twinkling star on Earth. Let’s know her successful story…

About early life
Sunita Lyn Williams is an American astronaut and United State Navy officer of Indian- Slovenian descent. She was born on September 19, 1965 in Euclid, Ohio in USA to an Indian American neuroanatomist Mr. Deepak Pandya and Mrs. Bonnie Pandya.

Early Career
Williams received her commission in the United States Navy in May 1987 as a Basic Diving Officer.

In September 1992 she was the Officer-in-Charge of an H-46 detachment sent to Miami, Florida and from there she was selected for United States 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 as the Aircraft Handler and the Assistant Air Boss.

Williams was deployed on Saipan in June 1998 when she was selected by NASA for the astronaut program. Before selected by NASA she has logged more than 3000 flight hours in more than 30 aircraft types.

Career at NASA
Sunita Williams began her astronaut candidate training at the Johnson Space center in August 1998. She was the part of the following expeditions.

  • Expedition 14 and 15On December 9, 2006 she was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) with STS-116, aboard the space shuttle Discovery to join the Expedition 14 crew.

    In April 2007, the Russian members of the crew rotated, changing to Expedition 15. After launching aboard the Shuttle Discovery.

    She 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 3 more space walks from the ISS and in her third spacewalk she was outside the station for 6 hours and 40 minutes. She logged 29 hours and 17 minutes in 4 spacewalks.

    On April 26, 2007 NASA decided to bring Williams back to Earth on STS-117 mission aboard Atlantis. She served as a mission specialist and returned to Earth on June 22, 2007 and when the Atlantis touched the earth at 3:49p.m. EDT in California, Williams was at home after a record 192 day stay in Space.

  • Expedition 32 and 33She again took a spaceflight on July 15, 2012 as a part of Expedition 32/33. Her Russian spacecraft Soyuz docked with the ISS for a four month stay. Williams became the commander of the ISS during her stay onboard ISS Expedition 33 on September 17, 2012, being only the 2nd women to achieve that feat.

    She returned to the Earth on November 19, 2012.

  • Commercial crew membersIn July 2015, NASA announced Williams as one of the first astronauts for U.S. Commercial spaceflights. Subsequently, she had started working with Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX’s Dragon to train in their commercial crew vehicles, along with other three astronauts.


In her two space missions she had set numerous records and achieved several milestones. Some of them are following:

  • Maximum number of space walks by women – Seven
  • Most spacewalk time for women – 50 hours and 40 minutes
  • Spent a total of 322 days in space on two missions and ranks 6th on the all-time U.S. endurance list and 2nd all time for a female astronaut.
  • Holds the record of longest spaceflight (195 days) for female space travelers.

Awards and Honors
Sunita Williams had also been awarded with the following awards

  • Awarded Navy Commendation Medal (2)
  • Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal
  • Humanitarian Service Medal

and various other service awards…

Connection with India

The paternal ancestry of Sunita Williams is from Jhulasan, Mehsana district in Gujarat.

In September 2007, Williams visited India. She went to the Sabarmati Ashram and her ancestral village Jhulasan in Gujarat.

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.


Interaction with SPACE

In 2015, Sunita Williams again visited India and students from schools affiliated with SPACE got the incredible opportunity to interact with her on 20 April 2015 at the American Center, Delhi.
Mr. Sachin Bahmba, (CMD) presented a gift from SPACE as a token of our collective respect to her. She expressed interest in STEM education in India and was happy to see the role that SPACE has been playing in encouraging science in education at the school level.


Sunita Williams shared detailed experiences about her experiences in space with the students. She presented videos that showed her introducing different areas of the ISS and answered many questions that are popular with the students. She let the students glimpse many details of her experience which are not normally accessible to the public in general.

So this year on her birthday let’s wish that she achieve more heights in her life and make India proud as she had already done in the past…..

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