Sunita Williams Set for Historic Flight on Boeing’s Starliner

Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams is gearing up for another adventure in space, this time piloting the maiden crewed mission of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft. Liftoff is scheduled for May 7th, 2024, at 8:04 am IST from the Kennedy Space Center.

A Seasoned Astronaut Ready for New Challenges:

  • At 59, Williams will become the first woman to command a new spacecraft’s maiden flight.
  • A veteran of two prior space missions (2006 & 2012), she has logged over 322 days in space.
  • While previously holding the record for longest female spacewalk duration (50 hours, 40 minutes), Peggy Whitson has since surpassed it.

Passionate About Exploration and Culture:

  • Williams embraces her Indian heritage.
  • She’ll carry a Lord Ganesh statue as a lucky charm, having brought copies of the Bhagavad Gita on past missions.
  • An avid marathon runner, she even ran one aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

India’s Space Aspirations:

  • ISRO applauds Williams’ achievement and continues its own human spaceflight program, Gaganyaan, targeting a 2026 launch with a four-member crew.

Starliner’s Long-Awaited Journey:

  • Selected by NASA for astronaut transportation to the ISS, SpaceX has been operational since 2020.
  • Boeing’s Starliner has faced delays but is finally ready for its first crewed mission.

Mission Details and Beyond:

  • Williams will be joined by veteran astronaut Barry Wilmore on the week-long mission to the ISS.
  • The spacecraft, named “Calypso” after Jacques Cousteau’s famous ship, will return to Earth via a parachute and airbag landing.
  • Williams, who has a school named after her in the US, may even interact with students from space.

A Pioneering Role:

  • Designed for seven passengers, the Starliner is a product of over a decade of development.
  • Williams’ participation extends beyond piloting; she’s been involved in the spacecraft’s development, making this mission even more personal.

With her experience, enthusiasm, and a touch of good luck from Lord Ganesh, Sunita Williams is poised to make history on the Starliner’s maiden voyage.

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