NASA Astronaut Sunita William shares her experience in space in live webinar organized by Kalam Centre. Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Centre for Creating Liveable Planet and Sustainable Development is known for organizing Dr. Kalam Memorial Lecture where top-notch speakers are invited from different domains to talk in a live session about their ideas for the future.
The latest session of this series featured NASA Astronaut Sunita Williams who is a veteran of two space missions and formerly held records for most spacewalks and the maximum spacewalk time by a woman. This was conducted on 19th July 2020 and followed by a live question and answer session.
The live session was conducted in the evening at 7 pm on July 19 and was attended by nearly 1.75 lakh viewers from across the world. Srijan Pal Singh, CEO of Kalam Centre, was the moderator of the session and engaged in conversation with the renowned astronaut.
Sunita’s Journey as a Pilot
When asked about what really pushed her towards fulfilling her dreams of being an astronaut, she said that seeing her parents work hard after immigrating to the USA, instilled in her the value of hard work motivating her to give her all to education. Sunita Williams began her journey with the goal of becoming a veterinarian but could not get into the universities aimed for.
She said chuckling,
“One would say my life was not going the way I wanted it to, but this, in fact, opened the door to Test Pilot School leading to me thinking for the first time that I could be an astronaut in my mid-20s!” Though it was a circuitous path, she then worked towards becoming an astronaut and exclaimed, “Sometimes what you know at 17 is not everything!”
Experience as an Astronaut
Sunita Williams was introduced to NASA in 1998 and went to space in 2006. In the meantime, she was presented with the opportunity to go to the ISS which was stalled due to the Columbia accident to which had led to the sad demise of Kalpana Chawla, the first woman of Indian origin who went to space.
She said that it all seemed like a dream, be it training for the space-walk or the day of the launch itself. She also said that looking back at the Earth was surreal and incredible with no boundaries and just the perspective that it is one beautiful planet that we have.
In fact, given that in space, days and nights are one, she was asked about how they managed to have a schedule to which she said that they follow the Greenwich Mean Time, the reason being that it allows for half a normal day for the mission control in Houston and half a normal day for flight control in Moscow.
Bhagwad Gita in space
Williams vividly described the experience of stepping into space, the first step to which is suiting up which takes nearly 2 hours! It’s all work until the sun comes outpost which, it is difficult to avoid the distractingly breathtaking view of Earth, she said.
She went on to narrate how daily chores on Earth turn into funny incidents in space like just turning upside down and seeing a completely different picture of what is happening, and she also described her experience of playing hide and seek in space!
Is Mars the next Earth?
When asked if Mars would be next land inhabited by humans, Sunita Williams said that it would not be as easy as moving from one city to another but instead, people would have to be trained and transported.
It would require the creation of sustainable means to settle down on a whole different planet including the logistical arrangements. She is confident that it will happen as technological advancements are enabling more and more innovation as a means of pursuing the goal of reaching an alternate planet.
Talking about her future plans, she said she hopes to be flying one more time with improved technology and also spoke of developing a brand new spacesuit for travel to the moon.
When enquired about whether the ISS also would have to be replaced, she said they are planning on creating a Gateway, which would be a much smaller version of ISS and could be docked on to the moon relatively easily.
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