When Is Indo-American Astronaut Sunita Williams' Third Spacelift?

NASA astronaut Sunita Williams has spent 321 days 17 hours and 15 minutes of her life in space and she is all set to embark on her third mission soon. However, a technical glitch postponed her launch.

Tanya Savkoor
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Sunita Williams in 2004

NASA astronaut Sunita Lyn Williams has spent 321 days, 17 hours, and 15 minutes of her life in space and she was all set to embark on her third space mission. While the scheduled lift-off was May 6, a technical glitch with the Atlas V rocket reportedly caused a postponement to May 17 at 6:16 p.m.(May 18, 3:46 a.m.). The astronauts were ready and were also strapped into their seats when the launch activity was completely suspended hours before lift-off. For this mission, Williams underwent training as one of the first-ever pilots of the Crew Flight Test mission aboard the highly anticipated Boeing Starliner spacecraft.


NASA said in a statement that 'Suni' and astronaut Butch Wilmore would lift off on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and dock at the orbiting laboratory for about a week.

Reportedly, Williams would be carrying an idol of Lord Ganesha to space, which she considers a good-luck charm. NDTV reported that the Indian-origin astronaut carried a copy of the Bhagavad Gita on earlier space trips.

Third Time In Space

Sunita Lyn Williams will be heading to space for the third time in her life. The 58-year-old astronaut's first spaceflight experience was as a Flight Engineer with Expedition 14/15 from December 9, 2006, to June 22, 2007.

 Sunita Williams and Butch Wilmore prepare for the upcoming mission at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
| Image: Robert Markowitz

It was during that flight that Williams set new records for women in space with four spacewalks totalling 29 hours and 17 minutes. She concluded her tour and returned to Earth with the STS-117 crew. 


Following that, her next space lift was with Expedition 32/33 which launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in July 2012. She once again set a record for total cumulative spacewalk time with a time of 50 hours and 40 minutes.

Williams exercises on COLBERT during ISS Expedition 32
Williams during ISS Expedition 32 | Image: NASA

She, Russian Soyuz commander Yuri Malenchenko, and Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide of Japan spent four months conducting research and exploration aboard the orbiting laboratory before landing in November 2012.

Sunita Lyn Williams' Stellar Career

Williams belongs to Needham, Massachusetts. Her father, Deepak Pandya, was a renowned neuroanatomist from India. Her mother Ursuline Bonnie (Zalokar) Pandya is a Slovenian. 

Williams at Science City Kolkata in April 2013
Williams at a lecture in Kolkata's Science City, April 2013 | Image: Biswarup Ganguly

Sunita, commonly known as Suni, received a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Naval Academy, and then a Master of Science degree in engineering management from the Florida Institute of Technology in 1995.

She was an ensign in the United States Navy in May 1987 as a Basic Diving Officer. In 1989, she reported to the Naval Air Training Command, where she was designated a Naval Aviator.

In 1993, Williams began training at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. After her graduation, she was assigned to the Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Directorate as an H-46 Project Officer and V-22 chase pilot in the T-2.

In 1995, she went back to the Naval Test Pilot School as an instructor in the Rotary Wing Department and as the school's Safety Officer, where she flew the UH-60, OH-6, and OH-58 choppers.

She was then assigned as an Aircraft Handler and the Assistant Air Boss on the USS Saipan in 1998. Williams was selected by NASA for the astronaut program, where she began her training at Johnson Space Center in August 1998.

Williams has recorded more than 3,000 flight hours in more than 30 aircraft types. She has received several laurels for her contributions to the US Navy and American space research.

Some of her awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal (which she won twice), the Legion of Merit, the Navy Commendation Medal twice, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and the Humanitarian Service Medal.

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