New Delhi: Indian-born NASA astronaut Sunita Williams turned 51 on Monday. Williams, who holds the records for total spacewalks by a woman and most spacewalk time by a woman (50 hours and 40 minutes), was born on September 19, 1965, in Euclid, Ohio, US.
She was born to Indian American neuroanatomist Deepak Pandya and Slovene American Ursuline Bonnie Pandya.
On the occasion of her birth anniversarry, NASA History Office has tweeted out a picture of Williams with the caption “HappyBirthday to @Astro_Suni Williams, recordholder for cumulative spacewalk time by a woman—50 hrs and 40 minutes”!
— NASA History Office (@NASAhistory) September 19, 2016
Williams, who graduated from Needham High School in Needham, Massachusetts, in 1983 entered the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland the same year. She began her Astronaut Candidate training at the Johnson Space Center in August 1998.
On December 9, 2006, Williams was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) with STS-116, aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, where she served as a flight engineer for Expeditions 14 and 15.
In 2012, she also served as a flight engineer on Expedition 32 and then commander of Expedition 33.
Till date,Williams has made seven spacewalks totaling 50 hours and 40 minutes, putting her in no.7 on the list of most experienced spacewalkers.
In July 2015, NASA announced Sunita as one of the four astronauts who have been selected by NASA for commercial flights to the ISS from US soil. Since then, she has been working with Boeing and SpaceX to train in their commercial crew vehicles, along with other chosen astronauts.
Williams was the second American astronaut of Indian heritage to go into space after Kalpana Chawla, who died in the Columbia disaster in 2003. Williams, whose paternal ancestry is from Gujarat, is married to Michael J Williams, a Federal police officer in Oregon.