Washington, September 19: Sunita Williams, the pioneer American astronaut and a member of the US Navy, turned 55-year-old today. On this day - September 19 - in the year 1965, Williams was born in Euclid town of Ohio. On her 55th birthday, here are five lesser key facts to know about the Indian-origin NASA astronaut. Sunita Williams Birthday: Inspiring Quotes by The 'Spacewalker'.

Connection With India

William was born to an Indian American father and a Slovene American mother. The former - Deepak Pandey - was born in Mehsana district of India's Gujarat province in 1932. He later shifted to America where he practised as a noted neuroanatomist.

Educational Qualification

Williams completed her early education from Needham High School, Needham, Massachusetts in 1983. This was followed by a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Science from the U.S. Naval Academy, in the year 1987. She went onto pursue a Master of Science in Engineering Management certificate from the Florida Institute of Technology in 1995.

NASA Experience

Selected as an astronaut by NASA in June 1998, she reported for training in August 1998. Astronaut Candidate Training included orientation briefings and tours, numerous scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in shuttle and International Space Station systems, physiological training and ground school to prepare for T-38 flight training, as well as learning water and wilderness survival techniques.

Following a period of training and evaluation, Williams worked in Moscow with the Russian Space Agency on the Russian contribution to the space station and with the first Expedition Crew. Following the return of Expedition 1, Williams worked within the Robotics branch on the station’s Robotic Arm and the follow-on Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator.

As a NEEMO2 crew member, she lived underwater in the Aquarius habitat for 9 days. After her first flight, she served as Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Office. She then supported a long-duration mission as Flight Engineer for Expedition 32 and International Space Station Commander for Expedition 33.

Williams has spent a total of 322 days in space on two missions; she ranks second on the all-time U.S. endurance list for females. With 50 hours and 40 minutes, she is second on the list of total cumulative spacewalk time by a female astronaut.

Spaceflight Experience

Expedition 14/15 (December 9, 2006 to June 22, 2007):  Williams launched with the crew of STS-116 on December 9, 2006, docking with the International Space Station on December 11, 2006.  As a member of the Expedition 14 crew, Williams served as Flight Engineer.  While onboard, she established a world record for females with four spacewalks totaling 29 hours and 17 minutes.

Williams concluded her tour of duty as a member of the Expedition 15 crew returning to Earth with the STS-117 crew to land at Edwards Air Force Base, California on June 22, 2007.

Expedition 32/33 (July 14 to November 18, 2012): Williams launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, along with Russian Soyuz commander Yuri Malenchenko and Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, on July 14, 2012. They were welcomed on the International Space Station on July 17, 2012, by NASA Flight Engineer Joe Acaba and Russian cosmonauts, Expedition 32 commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Sergei Revin. Williams spent four months conducting research and exploration aboard the orbiting laboratory. She landed in Kazakhstan on November 18, 2012, after spending 127 days in space.

During their Expedition, Williams and Hoshide performed three spacewalks to replace a component that relays power from the space station's solar arrays to its systems, and repair an ammonia leak on a station radiator. With 50 hours and 40 minutes, Williams once again held the record for total cumulative spacewalk time by a female astronaut (has since been overtaken by Peggy Whitson with 10 spacewalks). In addition, Williams, who has spent a total of 322 days in space on two missions, now ranks sixth on the all-time U.S. endurance list, and second all-time for a female astronaut.

She is currently training for the first post-certification mission of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft – the second crewed flight for that vehicle – and her third long duration mission aboard the International Space Station.


Williams has been awarded twice with the Defense Superior Service Medal (DSSM), twice with Navy Commendation Medal and once each with the Legion of Merit, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal and various other honours.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Sep 19, 2020 07:59 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).