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When one world to conquer isn't enough

March 23, 2007
Almost everybody who has known NASA astronaut Sunita Williams nee Pandya -- currently on board the International Space Station, 250 miles above the rest of us -- agrees on one thing about her: even as a child, she had the makings of someone who would go places.

Those qualities often manifested in many ordinary and not-so-ordinary things that Sunita -- or Suni, as she is called by family members, friends and colleagues -- used to do as a child in Needham, Massachusetts, where she grew up before the family moved to Falmouth, some 70 miles away, in 1995.

Not that anybody even remotely guessed she would one day be an astronaut, living in a celestial home surrounded by nothing but silence and the blue firmament. "I didn't imagine she would be an astronaut, but I was certainly convinced, even when she was a child, that she would be something some day," her mother Bonnie Pandya says.

By all accounts, Suni, who was born in Ohio, September 19, 1965, the youngest of three children to Deepak and Bonnie Pandya, showed a combination of grit and gumption, intelligence and leadership qualities as a child, all of which have stayed with her. Her official biography mentions that she received her commission as an Ensign in the United States Navy from the US Naval Academy in May 1987 after she completed her BS in Physical Science from the Academy the same year. It also says she has logged over 2,770 flight hours in more than 30 different aircraft and flew naval helicopters during the 1991 Gulf War.

Image: Sunita Williams in full astronaut relagia.

Text: Suman Guha Mozumder
Photograph: Courtesy NASA

Also see: Sunita Williams in Space

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