March 27, 2007
Astronaut Stuck in Space for Now
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Astronaut Sunita Williams is stuck in space - at least temporarily. She flew up to the international space station last December planning to come home in early July after a seven-month stay.
When she comes back now will be a bit later than she planned.
The problem is that a hail storm that damaged the fuel tank of the space shuttle Atlantis has knocked NASA's flight schedule for the year out of whack.
Her ticket home, space shuttle Endeavour, may get off the ground several weeks later than its originally scheduled June 28 launch.
So Williams - who got a bit of attention for her accident with wasabi which wound up on the walls of the space station - may have to wait a little longer to go to her favorite sushi restaurant in Houston.
"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 Kirk Shireman, NASA's deputy manager of the space station program. "Aside from that, there's not a whole lot that one can do."
Flight surgeon Dave Alexander said Williams' physical fitness, mental well-being and radiation exposure would be monitored carefully, but "right now, the predictions are Suni can stay up for an extended period of time."
During her longer stay in space, Williams is expected to break the U.S. record for continuous time in space. Her current crew mate, Michael Lopez-Alegria, will set that record when he returns to Earth on April 20 in a Russian Soyuz vehicle with 214 days in space.
The longest stay in space was 437 days by Russian Valeri Polyakov.