Stuck... In... Space...!
It's a good thing NASA
astronaut Sunita Williams apparently enjoys being aboard the
International Space Station... because she's going to have to stay
there a bit longer than originally planned.
Blame it on the weather -- specifically, the February hailstorm
at Kennedy Space Center that damaged the shuttle Atlantis' external
fuel tank. As Aero-News reported, NASA
had to pull the shuttle off the pad to examine the damage, and the
jury is still out on whether NASA will opt to repair the tank at
Kennedy, or a new tank will have to be attached to Atlantis.
In either case, NASA's shuttle launch schedule for the year is
out of whack, according to CNN. (That's the actual term the
news agency used -- Ed.)
And that, in turn, means Williams -- who originally planned to
come home in early July, onboard the flight after Atlantis -- may
end up setting the all-time record for continuous time in space by
a US astronaut. The record is now held by Williams' crewmate,
Michael Lopez-Alegria -- who's scheduled to catch a lift back to
Earth onboard a Soyuz capsule April 20, after 214 days in
Doctors on Earth will monitor Williams' physical condition,
radiation exposure and mental health. Flight surgeon Dave Alexander
says he doesn't expect any complications, adding "right now, the
predictions are Suni can stay up for an extended period of
"We're doing things we can as best we can to make her happy, and
perhaps launch some special items that will make her more
comfortable for that extended period of time," said NASA's station
program deputy manager Kirk Shireman. "Aside from that, there's not
a whole lot that one can do."
Except, perhaps, send up some sushi; as it turns out, Williams
is a sushi aficionado. She garnered some attention earlier this
month, when she accidentally squirted wasabi from a tube into the
weightless environment of the station, in an attempt to fashion a
makeshift sushi meal with some bagged salmon. The wasabi wound up
on the walls.
"We finally got the wasabi smell out after it was flying around
everywhere," Williams told her mother in conversation arranged by
Boston radio station WBZ after the incident. "We cleaned it up off
the walls a little bit."