NASA chose Ms. Williams for the astronaut programme in 1998. She spent a total of 322 days in space and currently holds the record for total cumulative spacewalk time by a female astronaut (50 hours and 40 minutes). She now ranks sixth on the all-time US endurance list and second all-time for a female astronaut. “Their selection allows NASA to move forward with the training necessary to deliver on President Barack Obama’s ambitious plan for returning the launch of the US astronauts to US soil,” said John Holdren, assistant to the President for science and technology. “This is a new and exciting era in the history of US human spaceflight,” said Brian Kelly, director of flight operations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts with Boeing and SpaceX each require at least one crewed flight test with at least one NASA astronaut on board.
To meet this requirement, the companies must also provide the necessary training for the crew to operate their respective vehicles. NASA is extensively involved with the companies and reviews their training plans. “Congratulations to Bob, Eric, Doug and Sunita and welcome to the Commercial Crew team,” noted John Elbon, Boeing vice president. “We look forward to working with such a highly-skilled and experienced group of NASA astronauts as we carve a path forward to launch in 2017.”
The selections are the latest major milestone in the Obama administration’s plan to partner with the US industry to transport astronauts to space, create good-paying American jobs and end the nation’s sole reliance on Russia for space travel.