Indian-American Sunita Williams, an astronaut who lived and worked aboard the International Space Station for record setting six months in 2006, is again headed to the space in July.
According to sources in NASA, Williams is scheduled to take off on July 14 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
46-year-old Williams will be a flight engineer on the station’s Expedition 32 with Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. On reaching the space station she will take over as commander of Expedition 33.
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 resupply vehicles, and an increasingly faster pace of scientific research, the US space agency said.
In the space, Sunita Williams and her team of astronauts plan an orbital sporting event to mark the Summer Olympics in London.
Williams is the second woman of Indian origin to have been selected by NASA for a space mission after Kalpana Chawla and the second astronaut of Slovenian origin after Ronald M. Sega.
She holds three records for female space travellers: longest spaceflight (195 days), number of spacewalks (four), and total time spent on spacewalks (29 hours and 17 minutes).
A 1987 graduate of the US Naval Academy, Williams served in various roles as a Navy officer before being selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1998. She received a master’s degree from the Florida Institute of Technology in 1995.
"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," 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.