- This will be her third long-duration mission aboard the International Space Station.
Indian American Sunita “Suni” Williams will pilot Boeing’s Starliner on its first crewed mission to the International Space Station, NASA announced last week. The mission will be led by Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore, who had previously been assigned to the Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission.
Williams has been in training as commander of the Starliner’s first operational mission. This will be her third long-duration mission aboard the International Space Station.
She has spent a total of 322 days in space on two missions; she ranks second on the all-time U.S. endurance list for females, according to her NASA profile. With 50 hours and 40 minutes, she is second on the list of total cumulative spacewalk time by a female astronaut.
Unlike the first piloted test flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft in 2020, which lasted 64 days, the CFT mission will be limited to about two weeks “based upon current space station resources and scheduling needs,” NASA said. It may set a target date around the end of July after the test flight reviews are complete.
Williams was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 1998 and is a veteran of two space missions. Following training and evaluation, Williams worked in Moscow with the Russian Space Agency on the Russian contribution to the space station and with the first Expedition Crew.
Upon the return of Expedition 1, she worked within the robotics branch on the station’s Robotic Arm and the follow-on Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator. As a NEEMO2 crew member, she lived underwater in the Aquarius habitat for nine days.
After her first flight, she served as deputy chief of the Astronaut Office. She then supported a long-duration mission as Flight Engineer for Expedition 32 and International Space Station Commander for Expedition 33.