Sunita Williams : Astronaut, Marathon Runner in Space

Sunita Williams is born on September 19, 1965, in Euclid, Ohio, Sunita Pandya Krishna was the youngest of three children. Her father who was a neuroscientist and a mother who worked as an X-ray technician, Sunita grew up with sketches of brains around the house and aspired to be a veterinarian. She is married to Michael Williams.

Speaking of her father immigrating from India with his brothers, Williams said, “Working their way through university and coming over to America, without much infrastructure — I think about leaving my home for another country — that seems more daring than the things I’ve done.

Her life took a profound turn when her older brother attended the U.S. Sunita became a helicopter pilot, and served in the Mediterranean, Red Sea, and Persian Gulf in support of Desert Shield. In 1993, she graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. She completed her master’s degree in Engineering Management.

“Don’t let anyone tell you, ‘You can’t do it.’ That’s the biggest thing — I had one squad commander [tell me]: ‘Being an astronaut is for jet pilots, not for helicopter pilots.’ If you know that’s what you want, you’ve just got to go for it. You do the best you can do at what you’re doing, and find out what you need to do to get in this field.”

On Dec. 9, 2006, Sunita Williams first space mission launched on board the shuttle Discovery as part of the 14th expedition to the ISS. She remained in space until April 26, 2007. While there, williams set a world record for females over the course of four space walks, spending 29 hours and 17 minutes outside of the station. She stay in space over than 195 days in space, Williams also set a new record for females.

Williams is the second woman of India who go into space. Kalpana Chawla made two shuttle flights, the first aboard Columbia in 1997.