MUMBAI (TIP): Indian- American astronaut Sunita Williams has set a world record for the maximum number of spacewalks by a woman astronaut. A Nasa announcement on September 6 said that 47-yearold Williams surpassed Peggy Whitson whose space walks total led 39 hours and 46 minutes. With Wednesday’s spacewalk, Sunita notched up 44 hours and 2 minutes, the total number of spacewalks being six. On hearing about Sunita’s achievement, Whitson congratulated her saying: “You, go girl.” William’s reply was “Anybody could be in these boots”.
During Sept 5 spacewalk lasting six hours and 28 minutes, Williams and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide completed repairs on the International Space Station’s main power unit switching mechanism, a task which ran into problems last week. They also installed a camera on the space station’s robotic arm. Engineers on the ground and the astronauts in orbit scrambled to devise makeshift tools to clean metal shavings from the socket of the troublesome bolt, after last week’s failed effort to plug in the new power-relay unit. This time, Williams and Hoshide were armed with a blue toothbrush, a wire brush and other jury-rigged tools.
The two applied grease to the sticky bolt as well as extra pressure and plain old jiggling. They also brushed and blew away most if not all the metal shavings, debris that was discovered during last Thursday’s eight-hour extravaganza, one of the longest spacewalks on record. Wednesday’s outing lasted 6½ hours. Incidentally, Williams also holds the record of the longest space flight by a woman astronaut, totalling 195 days. In her first mission to the space station, she took off on December 9, 2006 and returned in June 2007. She came to India in September-October 2007 and met her family in Gujarat and interacted with school children in different parts of the country. She went back to the space station on July 14, 2012.