WASHINGTON: Indian-American Ms Sunita Williams, a record-setting astronaut who lived and worked aboard the International Space Station for six months in 2006, is headed to the space once again in July.
Ms Williams is scheduled to take off on July 14 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with Flight Engineers Mr Yuri Malenchenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Mr Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, NASA said.
46-year-old Ms Williams will be a flight engineer on the station’s Expedition 32 crew and will become commander of Expedition 33 on reaching the space station.
According to NASA, Ms Williams and her colleagues will be aboard the station during an exceptionally busy period that includes two spacewalks, the arrival of Japanese, US commercial and Russian re-supply vehicles, and an increasingly faster pace of scientific research.
Ms Williams, whose father hailed from Gujarat, was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1998. She was assigned to the International Space Station as a member of Expedition 14 and then joined Expedition 15. She holds the record of the longest spaceflight (195 days) for female space travellers.
She received a master’s degree from the Florida Institute of Technology in 1995.
In the space, Williams and her team of astronauts plan an orbital sporting event to mark the Summer Olympics in London.
“I’m just looking forward to seeing the full capability of the space station, it’s an experiment, not only the things that we’re doing inside but also all the engineering that has gone into allowing us to dock new vehicles, do space walks, Russian and US. So, it’s a pretty complicated vehicle now and I’m looking forward to being part of it,” Ms Williams said.
“Sprint’ is an experiment that’s trying to optimize our exercise protocol on board and trying to understand if intense exercise will take the place of long exercise. And ‘ICV’ is ‘integrated cardio-vascular’. It’s a pretty complicated experiment, and from the name you can understand it’s trying to understand what is happening with your heart on board,” she said at a news conference.