Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams is all set to return to to the International Space Station, where she spent a record six months in 2006.
Daughter of an Indian American father from Gujarat and a Slovenian mother, Williams is currently making final preparations for a July 14 launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, according to a NASA announcement.
She will be a flight engineer on the station’s Expedition 32 with Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. On reaching the space station she will take over as commander of Expedition 33.
Williams and her colleagues will be aboard the station during an exceptionally busy period that includes two spacewalks, the arrival of Japanese, US commercial and Russian resupply vehicles, and an increasingly faster pace of scientific research, the US space agency said.
Williams is the second woman of Indian heritage to have been selected by NASA for a space mission after Kalpana Chawla and the second astronaut of Slovenian heritage after Ronald M. Sega.
She holds three records for female space travellers: longest spaceflight (195 days), number of spacewalks (four), and total time spent on spacewalks (29 hours and 17 minutes).
A 1987 graduate of the US Naval Academy, Williams served in various roles as a Navy officer before being selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1998. She received a master’s degree from the Florida Institute of Technology in 1995.