Spacewalking astronauts are big right now thanks to a certain blockbuster movie full of A-List Hollywood Stars. In preparing for her role in Gravity, actress Sandra Bullock turned to real-life astronaut Cady Coleman for advice about what life in space is really like. But the big screen is obviously nothing like the real thing.
Stepping outside of a spacecraft that is orbiting our planet at speeds of thousands (and thousands) of miles per hour is a frightening prospect. So who are the brave women that have actually performed this heroic work in real life?
To this day, eleven women have made the journey. At number nine is record-breaking astronaut Sunita Williams.
NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Expedition 32 flight engineer, attired in an Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuit, is pictured in the Quest airlock of the International Space Station prior to a session of extravehicular activity (EVA). Credit: NASA
Astronaut Sunita Williams, Expedition 14 flight engineer, places a sample collected using the swabbing unit from an International Space Station surface into the Lab-on-a-Chip Application Development - Portable Test System (LOCAD-PTS) cartridge. Credit: NASA
Sunita Williams is the reigning queen of spacewalks. She has made seven successful EVAs over four separate missions (one from the Space Shuttle Discovery and three from the ISS). In 2012, she earned her place as the 5th most experienced spacewalker with 50 hours and 40 minutes spent floating outside the relative safety of a spacecraft. Williams also holds the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman at 195 days.
“We really have the most beautiful planet in our solar system. None other can sustain life like we know it. None other has blue water and white clouds covering colorful landmasses filled with thriving, beautiful, living things like human beings. We are lucky, and to quote a great movie, we are a privileged planet. I do hope there are other wonderful planets living and thriving out there, but ours is special because it is ours and ours to take care of. We really can't take that too lightly.” – Sunita William, NASA ISS Mission Log.
This NASA Hangout, "Science & Spacewalks with Astronauts Suni Williams & Aki Hoshide," is from March, 2013. Credit: NASAtelevision
NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Expedition 32 flight engineer, appears to touch the bright Sun during the mission’s third session of extravehicular activity (EVA) on Sept. 5, 2012. The spacewalk lasted six-hours and 28-minutes. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Aki Hoshide is visible in the reflections of Williams’ helmet visor. Credit: NASA