Washington (AFP) Jun 23, 2007
Commander Sunita Williams, who on Friday became the woman who has spent the longest time in space, joined NASA as a navy experimental test pilot and flew helicopters in the 1991 Gulf war. Williams, 41, said her Indian heritage is a source of pride for her and others. "I am half Indian and I've got a, I'm sure, a group of Indian people who are looking forward to seeing this second person of Indian origin flying up in space," she said in a pre-flight NASA interview.
"People on the ground being able to relate to those people in space really makes people start to wonder, 'Wow, what else can we do?'"
Her parents live in the Boston area, where her father, Deepak Pandya, is a physician. She was born September 19, 1965, and is married to Michael Williams. They have no children.
Williams left Earth on December 9, 2006 aboard a previous shuttle mission, and before returning aboard the Atlantis Friday set a record of four space walks by a woman, totaling 29 hours, 17 minutes.
She became the only person, male or female, to run a marathon in space, finishing in four hours and 24 minutes according to the counter on the space station treadmill.
Her self-effacing attitude deflates conventional wisdom.
"I graduated from my high school OK. Not, not absolutely number one, I was just OK," she told NASA.
Neither was being an astronaut her number-one career choice.
"In my mind, I think everybody wants to be an astronaut," she said in a NASA interview.
"When I was five years old or so, I saw Neil Armstrong walk on the moon and thought, Wow --that's cool.'"
However, space was not always on her horizon. She nearly skipped navy flight school, fearing the academy would make her cut her hair.
Then, she became a pilot only after her Navy Academy grades were not good enough to become a diver, she confessed.
Williams did not consider being an astronaut until learning to fly 30 planes as well as helicopters, which are great trainers for landing a lunar module, she learned on a visit to NASA.
"Something just clicked in my head, and I said ... maybe there's a use for helicopter pilots, if we're going to go back to the moon.
"So, I sort of said to myself, the only one who's telling me I'm not going to be an astronaut is me," she said. She applied for the job -- and landed it.
Williams eclipsed the 11-year record held by astronaut Kathryn Thornton for most spacewalk time by a woman.
And she broke the 188-day and four-hour record set by compatriot Shannon Lucid in 1996, according to US space officials, spending 195 days in space.
Despite rigorous exercise while in orbit, Williams landed on her back with her crew couch flat-out, NASA said, which is common for astronauts returning to Earth's gravity.
Williams, who competes in triathlons in her spare time, said she would serve as a guinea pig for in-flight experiments.
"Now that we're going back to the moon and going to Mars, the main focus of the space station for US science is how people are going to live out in space for extended periods of time," she said ahead of the flight.
"Over a six-month period we're definitely going to lose bone and muscle mass," despite a heavy workout routine, including resistance lifts, to mitigate bone loss. She also took blood samples and tracked all her meals.
"After five months, I finally broke out my second 'bonus container'," with foods each astronaut especially likes.
"I was really surprised to see the CREAMY coffee in there," and so were her fellow astronauts.
"I think they saw that nasty grimace I gave every morning choking down plain old black coffee -- I'm only half a sailor," she wrote in her in-flight blog.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Moon Jobs May Crater Suggests Rutgers-Camden Researcher
Camden NJ (SPX) Jun 25, 2007
Think your job is tough? Can't wait for summer vacation to "get away from it all"? Just wait, says a Rutgers University-Camden researcher. In the not-too-distant future, some jobs will challenge workers placed far, far away from it all. On the moon, in fact. According to Chester Spell, an associate professor of management at the Rutgers School of Business-Camden, the lunar settlements of tomorrow - or, for that matter, the space stations of today - carry long-term implications for the mental health of employees working in isolation for extended periods.
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