Sunita Williams-A Space Woman
Hours after she returned to the earth onboard shuttle Atlantis after a record 195 days stay in space, Indian American Astronaut Sunita Williams was choosen person of the Week” by a leading U. S. television network ABC. The shuttle touched down safely at the Edwards Air Force Base in California on June 22 after poor weather at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral forced mission managers to skip three landing attempts there.
“Welcome back and congratulations on a great mission.” NASA mission control told Sunita and six other members of the crew soon after the shuttle landed. Sunita also set the world record a female astronaut on spacewalks, totaling 29 hours and 17 minutes. She proved that she could not only walk in space but also run for, when her sister Dina Pandya ran the Boston Marathon on April 16, she ran her own marathon in space using a treadmill suspended by gyroscopes to minimise any impact of pounding feet on the space station. After flying helicopters for the Navy during the first Gulf War, Commander Sunita Williams was selected to train as an astronaut. As the Atlantis finished its 14day trip, Sunita had an international cheering squad awaiting her safe return. Sunita, who has a Slovenian mother and an Indian father, had hundreds of people praying in India for her safe return.
Sunita crossed the milestone for the longest uninterrupted stay by a woman in space on June 23 last, surpassing the 188-day four-hour mark set by U. S. astronaut Shannon Lucid in 1996 on a mission to the Russian Mir space station. She had set off from Cape Canaveral on December 9 last on shuttle Discovery for what was to become the longest space journey by a woman. During her stay at the space station, she worked with experiments across a wide variety of fields, including human life sciences, physical sciences, and earth observation as well as education and technology demonstrations. Some of these experiments gave scientists critical insight into the effects of weightlessness on human bodies while others showed ways to prevent effects already known like muscle and bone loss. Sunita collected and stored her blood while in space to add to an ongoing study on nutrition, another key element of living in space for long stretches of time.