Sunita Williams To Pilot Starliner's First Crewed Mission To Space Station

Astronaut Sunita Williams will fly Boeing's Starliner on its first crewed mission to International Space Station.

Indian Diaspora
2 min read
Sunita Williams To Pilot Starliner's First Crewed Mission To Space Station

Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams and NASA's Barry "Butch" Wilmore will fly on Boeing Crew Flight Test, Starliner's first crewed mission to the International Space Station, according to the US space agency.

Williams will be the pilot and Wilmore will command the mission, the US space agency announced in a report on 16 June. The crew will live and work at the International Space Station for about two weeks.

The launch date is yet to be determined. Previously, Williams was the backup test pilot for CFT and assigned as the commander of NASA's Boeing Starliner-1 mission, Starliner's first post-certification mission.

In her current role as the Crew Flight Test pilot, Williams will be replacing NASA astronaut Nicole Mann, who was originally assigned to the mission in 2018. Mann was later reassigned to the agency's SpaceX Crew-5 mission in 2021.

A short duration mission with two astronaut test pilots will be enough to attain NASA and Boeing's testing goals for the Crew Flight Test. Williams and Wilmore will test the Starliner's ability to safely conduct operational crewed missions to and fro the International Space Station, according to the US space agency.

NASA has plans in place to extend the CFT's docked duration for up to six months and deploy an additional astronaut later, if required. This course of action will be undertaken to protect against "unforeseen events with crew transportation to the station".


NASA astronaut Mike Fincke will now train as the backup spacecraft test pilot. He was previously assigned as the Joint Operations Commander for the Crew Flight Test.

Wilmore, Williams, and Fincke each have the experience of flying as long-duration crew members aboard the space station.

"Mike Fincke has dedicated the last nine years of his career to these first Boeing missions and Suni the last seven. Butch has done a marvelous job leading the team as the spacecraft commander since 2020."
Reid Wiseman, Chief, Astronaut Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Wilmore and Williams' crewed flight test will begin at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The Boeing's Starliner will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41.

Who is Sunita Williams?

Born in Euclid, Ohio, and raised in Needham, Massachusetts, Williams is the second American astronaut of Indian-origin to go into space, after Kalpana Chawla, who died in the Columbia disaster.

Sunita Williams (previously Sunita Pandya) has held two space records--most spacewalks by a woman and most spacewalk time for a woman i.e. 50 hours, 40 minutes. She has had seven spacewalks during her career as an astronaut.

Williams has spent 322 days in space on two separate missions. She ranks sixth on the all-time US endurance list and second al-time for a female astronaut.

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