HomeScience & TechIndian-Origin Astronaut Sunita Williams Makes History on Maiden Flight of Boeing's Starliner

Indian-Origin Astronaut Sunita Williams Makes History on Maiden Flight of Boeing’s Starliner

New Delhi: Sunita Williams is Indian-origin astronaut, has rocketed into space, creating history as the first woman to test a spacecraft on its maiden mission. Notably, Williams has been instrumental in the design of this spacecraft over the last decade. She flew over India on her way to space.

Williams lifted off onboard Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft atop an Atlas 5 rocket at 8:22 pm (IST) from the Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. This marks her third space flight. The lift-off, which occurred on the third attempt, was successful, placing the Starliner in the correct orbit. The spacecraft is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) a day later.

This launch positions the US with three crewed spacecraft simultaneously in orbit: Boeing’s Starliner, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, and the ISS. If all goes well, the Starliner will dock with the Harmony module of the ISS. Williams and her co-passenger, Butch Wilmore, will remain at the ISS for about a week to test the spacecraft and its subsystems. This mission is crucial for the final certification of the Starliner as a transportation system for rotational missions to the ISS under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

NASA emphasized that the Starliner, designed by astronauts for astronauts, is the most modern crew module ever flown. Williams, a prominent figure for aspiring female astronauts, embarks on this mission in a brand-new spacecraft.

Previously, Williams spent 322 days in space and held the record for the most hours of spacewalk by a woman until Peggy Whitson surpassed her. Now, at 59, she becomes the first woman to fly on the maiden crewed mission of a new space shuttle. Despite admitting to some nervousness, Williams expressed confidence in the spacecraft she helped design. “When I reach the International Space Station, it will be like going back home,” she said.

The nearly 10-day mission aims to prove the Starliner’s space-worthiness and readiness for NASA certification for long-duration missions. Despite delays and budget overruns, the mission is crucial for Boeing’s reputation in the space industry.

In 2014, NASA awarded a $4.2 billion contract to Boeing for the Starliner. Nearly a decade later, this mission marks its first successful human space flight. In contrast, SpaceX, which received a $2.6 billion contract for its Crew Dragon, has already been ferrying astronauts to the ISS.

Williams’ historic flight not only marks a significant milestone for Boeing but also for the future of crewed space missions.

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