SUNITA NASA’S COMMERCIAL CREW FOR ISS FLIGHTS
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.”