Sunita Williams makes history: First woman to pilot spacecraft on test mission

Williams, 58, launched aboard Boeing's Starliner capsule on June 5, alongside NASA astronaut Barry "Butch" Wilmore, from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Sunita Williams makes history: First woman to pilot spacecraft on test mission
Jaano Junction

In a historic achievement, Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams has become the first woman to pilot a new spacecraft on its inaugural crewed test flight to space.

Williams, 58, launched aboard Boeing's Starliner capsule on June 5, alongside NASA astronaut Barry "Butch" Wilmore, from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The mission, dubbed Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT), is a crucial step in certifying the Starliner for regular crewed flights to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. If successful, it will make Starliner the second private spacecraft after SpaceX's Crew Dragon to transport astronauts to and from the orbiting laboratory.

For Williams, a veteran of two previous space shuttle missions totaling 322 days in orbit, this flight marks another pioneering milestone in her trailblazing career.

She previously set records for most spacewalks (7) and spacewalk time (50 hours, 40 minutes) by a woman during her expeditions aboard the ISS in 2006-2007 and 2012.

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Sunita Williams makes history: First woman to pilot spacecraft on test mission

The Starliner capsule will attempt to dock with the ISS around 26 hours after liftoff, carrying Williams, Wilmore and over 500 pounds of cargo for the orbiting outpost.

The two astronauts are scheduled to spend about a week aboard the station, conducting tests and validating Starliner's systems before returning to Earth for a parachute-assisted landing in the western United States.

Williams' achievement is particularly poignant given her Indian-Slovenian heritage. Born to an Indian-American father from Gujarat and a Slovenian-American mother, she has celebrated her multicultural roots by carrying Indian and Slovenian items during her previous spaceflights.

As Williams and Wilmore continue operations aboard the ISS, their pioneering mission aboard Starliner marks a significant step in expanding humanity's access to space through commercial partnerships.

It also cements Williams' legacy as one of the most accomplished women in the history of space exploration.

Source: India Today

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