NASA Astronaut, Florida Tech Grad Suni Williams Names Boeing Starliner ‘Calypso’ for Upcoming Mission

By  //  December 29, 2019

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Williams, who joined NASA in 1998, spent 322 days in space on two shuttle missions

NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, who earned a master’s degree in engineering management from Florida Institute of Technology, will command the first re-flight of the Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule that recently completed an uncrewed orbital flight test on Dec. 22. Williams, above right, selected “Calypso” as the name she chose for the capsule she will command on its next flight. (NASA TV video image)

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, who earned a master’s degree in engineering management from Florida Institute of Technology, will command the first re-flight of the Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule that recently completed an uncrewed orbital flight test on Dec. 22.

The Starliner spacecraft launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Williams was given the honor of christening the vehicle, and selected “Calypso.”

“A little homage to other explorers and the ships they rode on, I think we are going to call her ‘Calypso,'” said Williams, who was on hand at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico for the landing.

“A little homage to other explorers and the ships they rode on, I think we are going to call her ‘Calypso,'” said Williams as she stood in front of her future spacecraft only an hour and a half after it touched down under parachutes and on airbags at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

Boeing’s Starliner is the first U.S. crew capsule to return from orbit to solid ground rather than ocean.

Along with astronaut Josh Cassada and two international crewmates yet to be named, Williams will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to the International Space Station on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

Williams, who joined NASA in 1998, spent 322 days in space on two shuttle missions. Cassada has never taken a spaceflight. He has 3,500 flight hours in more than 40 aircraft as a Navy commander and test pilot.

“Florida Tech had the reputation for being the hardest, the most difficult, I don’t know why I chose that, maybe the challenge,” said Williams, who holds an undergraduate degree from the U.S. Naval Academy. “Florida Tech is very professional. They have high standards.” (NASA Image)

A successor to the 30-year-long space shuttle program, the commercial crew program seeks to send astronauts to deep space on privately built spacecraft.

Williams, a U.S. Navy captain, was born in Euclid, Ohio, but considers Needham, Massachusetts, her hometown. She received her commission in the Navy in May 1987 and became a helicopter pilot, logging more than 3,000 flight hours in more than 30 different aircraft.

In addition to her nearly year-long stint in space over those two missions, Williams currently holds the record for total cumulative spacewalk time by a female astronaut (50 hours and 40 minutes).

Preceding her selection into the astronaut program, Williams earned her advanced degree at Florida Tech’s Patuxent site in Maryland in 1995. She told the university’s Florida Tech Today magazine that the extended studies program was an ideal fit.

Along with astronaut Josh Cassada, Williams will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to the International Space Station on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. (NASA image)

“It’s a perfect place because they are working and testing aircraft and this automatically can become part of their studies or their thesis. It goes hand-in-hand. There is an audience who needs this service,” she said.

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Florida Tech was not the only on-site school available for Williams, but she chose it because of the school’s reputation.

“Florida Tech had the reputation for being the hardest, the most difficult, I don’t know why I chose that, maybe the challenge,” said Williams, who holds an undergraduate degree from the U.S. Naval Academy.

“Florida Tech is very professional. They have high standards.”

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