Hindustan Times (Patna) - Live - - Variety - IANS

In­dian-Amer­i­can Su­nita Wil­liams is now one the four astro­nauts who have been se­lected by NASA for its com­mer­cial flights to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion (ISS) from the US soil.

They will work closely with com­pany-led teams to un­der­stand their de­signs and oper­a­tions as they fi­nalise their Boe­ing CST-100 and SpaceX Crew Dragon space­craft, as well as op­er­a­tional strate­gies.

Wil­liams, Robert Behnken, Eric Boe and Dou­glas Hur­ley will be trained for com­mer­cial space­flights that will re­turn Amer­i­can launches to US soil and open up lowEarth or­bit trans­porta­tion to the pri­vate sec­tor, NASA said. “These distin­guished, vet­eran astro­nauts are blaz­ing a new trail — that will one day land them in the history books and Amer­i­cans on the sur­face of Mars,” said NASA ad­min­is­tra­tor Charles Bolden.

Wil­liams, a US Navy cap­tain, re­ceived her com­mis­sion in the Navy in May 1987 and be­came a he­li­copter pi­lot, log­ging more than 3,000 flight hours in more than 30 air­craft.

NASA chose Wil­liams for the as­tro­naut pro­gramme in 1998. She spent a to­tal of 322 days in space and cur­rently holds the record for to­tal cu­mu­la­tive space­walk time by a fe­male as­tro­naut (50 hours and 40 min­utes). She now ranks 6th on the all-time US en­durance list and 2nd all-time for a fe­male as­tro­naut.

“This is a new and ex­cit­ing era in the history of US hu­man space­flight,” said Brian Kelly, di­rec­tor of flight oper­a­tions at NASA’s John­son Space Cen­ter in Hous­ton. The Com­mer­cial Crew Trans­porta­tion Ca­pa­bil­ity con­tracts with Boe­ing and SpaceX each re­quire at least one crewed flight test with at least one NASA as­tro­naut on board. To meet this re­quire­ment, the com­pa­nies must also pro­vide the nec­es­sary train­ing for the crew to op­er­ate their re­spec­tive ve­hi­cles. NASA is in­volved with the com­pa­nies ex­ten­sively, and re­views their train­ing plans too. “Con­grat­u­la­tions to Su­nita, Bob, Eric and Doug, and welcome to the Com­mer­cial Crew team,” says John El­bon, VP, Boe­ing,” adding, “We look for­ward to work­ing with such a highly-skilled and ex­pe­ri­enced group of NASA astro­nauts as we carve a path for­ward to launch in 2017.”


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