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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Astronaut says life in space takes some adjusting

Sunita L. Williams 2.jpg

Williams takes a walk -- in space
(NASA Photo)


She wakes after a fitful sleep, craving a cup of coffee. A sip escapes from its container and floats before her eyes in a perfect, piping hot sphere.

She lets the droplet float around for a bit until it cools down enough to lap up without burning her tongue.

So starts another work day for Sunita Williams. At least she doesn't have to worry about a commute. She's always on the job, 250 miles above the earth.

Williams, a month into her half year stint aboard the International Space Station, has learned that even something as routine as a morning java requires strict attention to detail. In this case, she forgot to close the plastic tab on her cup.

The Needham native said she is finally getting the hang of life in a microgravity environment. Initially, she battled nausea and felt disoriented. Up, down, left, and right -- it was hard to tell one from the other at first.

Williams has been recording her journey in a mission log and in emails to family and friends, including her friend and sixth grade teacher Angela DiNapoli.

Williams recently completed her first spacewalk. She had practiced for it in a pool at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, but nothing can quite match the real thing.

“Oh my gosh. I hope I can do this,” she confided thinking to DiNapoli.

The maneuver was not only tricky but dangerous. If she brushed against the solar panels that power the station, she could get electrocuted. Williams told DiNapoli that she felt like Spiderman scooting up a wall when she climbed up a truss of the space station. ...

Read more about Sunita Williams's adventures in space in tomorrow's Globe West.

-- Lauren K. Meade

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