S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Spacey Women

Astronaut "Sunny" Williams set a new record this week, (quoting from NASA's website story):
. . . for the longest duration spaceflight by a woman. At that time, Williams surpassed Shannon Lucid’s mark of 188 days, 4 hours set in 1996.
Commander, USN, Sunita Williams has proven to be an amazing asset to the space program. She is a very talented woman who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1987. She was a naval diving officer and a helicopter test pilot, She received her Master's in Engineering Management in 1995. She is bright, flexible, a great communicator and workmate for whatever crew of which she has been a part. She has worked in Moscow with the Russian Space Agency. And Williams has lived underwater in the NASA Aquarius habitat for nine days. She just loves to fly, to fly the Robotic arms of the shuttle and the ISS, and she ran in the Boston Marathon while in space. The astronaut also likes to space "walk." Suni estalished a world record for females with four space walks totaling 29+ hours of EVA. She graduated high school in Massachusetts and is married to Michael J. Williams.

Further info - headlined, "Shuttle Astronaut Sets New Record, Crew Works at ISS," in an article by Tariq Malik, Staff Writer, that was posted on 16 June 2007, at To quote,

NASA astronaut Sunita Williams set a new spaceflight record early Saturday as she and her Atlantis shuttle crewmates continue their mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

At precisely 1:47 a.m. EDT (0547 GMT), Williams took the all-time title for the longest spaceflight by a female astronaut as she passed the 188-day, four-hour mark in Earth orbit.

"This has been my home. I love living up here," Williams told CBS News earlier this week, adding that the station is great place to work, even if unfinished. "Hopefully, over the past six months, a lot of people have joined me and been able to see that."

Williams' spaceflight surpassed that of fellow NASA astronaut Shannon Lucid, who spent just over 188 days in orbit during a 1996 mission to Russia's Mir Space Station. By coincidence, Williams set the new record on the 44th anniversary of the launch of the first female spaceflyer Valentina Tereshkova, a cosmonaut launched by the former Soviet Union in 1963.

Russian Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova launched on June 16, 1963
(image: Ria Novosti)

"The story of women in Space" can be found in this Russian News and Information Agency story written by Yury Zaitsev (3/13/07). Quoting from the "opinion and analysis" piece,

March 12, 1962 is the official date of the establishment of a women's group in the first division of cosmonauts. Five people were selected from more than a thousand applicants: engineer Irina Solovyova, mathematician and programmer Valentina Ponomaryova, textile worker Valentina Tereshkova, teacher Zhanna Yerkina and shorthand secretary Tatyana Kuznetsova.

[after training] . . . The women's group was officially introduced to general designer Sergei Korolyov after the final examination for basic space training. Korolyov asked each one to tell her story. Then he wanted to know what made them seek a space career. Towards the end he grew gloomy and later, speaking to a small circle of people, expressed his dissatisfaction with the group's composition. In his view, none of the group members had much to do with space and rockets.

. . . On June 16, 1963, two of the women - Tereshkova and Solovyova - arrived at the launch pad clad in spacesuits. When Solovyova had first donned her suit, its sealing in the neck area broke and the spacesuit had to be changed quickly for Ponomaryova's one. If Tereshkova's suit had ruptured, there would have been no replacement because of the difference in the women's heights, and then Irina Solovyova might have become the world's first woman in space.

[concluding paragraph] . . . When the women's team had been disbanded, only Tereshkova had stayed on with the cosmonauts' detachment. She remained there until 1997 (on a purely formal basis) and retired with the rank of Major-General. Since then, no women have been enlisted. Eight women were recruited by Energia and the Institute of Medical and Biological Studies for orbital flights, but only two of them - Svetlana Savitskaya, the marshal's daughter, and Yelena Kondakova, the wife of Valery Ryumin, a cosmonaut and deputy CEO of Energia - were lucky enough to go aloft. The last woman in Energia's team of cosmonauts was Nadezhda Kuzhelnaya. She had no high-placed relatives and, though considered a top-notch specialist, never made it into space.

References: Sunita Williams at Wikipedia; and Valentina Tereshkova from the Encyclopedia Britannica online, from which I quote,

Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova Soviet cosmonaut, the first woman to travel into space. On June 16, 1963, she was launched in the spacecraft Vostok 6, which completed 48 orbits in 71 hours. In space at the same time was Valery F. Bykovsky, who had been launched two days earlier in Vostok 5; both landed on June 19.

Previous South by Southwest posts about "spacey women" - I count myself as one of them:

  1. Texas Women & Claims to Fame

  2. More about Leadership and Women's Roles

  3. Women are Good Communicators

  4. STS - Still Holding

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