Astronaut Sunita Williams set a record for the longest single spaceflight by any woman. Williams, who has lived at the space station since December, surpassed the record of 188 days set by astronaut Shannon Lucid at the Mir space station in 1996.
“It’s just that I’m in the right place at the right time,” Williams said when Mission Control in Houston congratulated her on the record. “Even when the station has little problems, it’s just a beautiful, wonderful place to live.”
Those “little problems” had been considerable in recent days with the computer system failure on the Russian side of the station. But Russian cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov soon got the processors working.
“In the very beginning, we were a little bit worried about the state of the computers,” Kotov said. “We were pretty sure our ground team can troubleshoot this problem and it’s become true. Now we have a good set of computers and the station again looks pretty good and in good shape.”
Engineers in Moscow and Houston had not yet conclusively determined what caused the failure, although the leading theory was changes to the electrical system from the space station’s growth.
“The bottom line is it appears that the command and control type computers are functioning just fine,” said Mike Suffredini, NASA’s space station program manager.
Williams’ former crew mate at the space station, astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, holds the US record for longest continuous stay in space with 215 days. The longest stay in space was 437 days by Russian Valeri Polyakov.
In February, Williams set another record for the most time spent spacewalking by a woman, kicking off a year of achievements by women in space.
Almost three decades after the first women joined the astronaut corps in 1978, only 17 of the 94 current active astronauts are women.
Lucid says part of the problem may be the pipeline that delivers pilots to the astronaut corps—the US military. Women didn’t start entering the military service academies until the late 1970s.
An Indian American music composer has become an inspiration for a whole new generation of American composers by being ranked among the top 15 women composers in the US.
Asha Srinivasan, 26, a doctoral student at the University of Maryland, performed at the Celebration of Women Composers at the Notable Women Festival in New York, organised by Orchestra of St. Luke’s, America’s foremost chamber orchestra, which has gained critical acclaim for vibrant music making.
Srinivasan’s composition, The River Near Savathi, was commissioned after she beat 66 other American composers between the ages of 20 and 30 in a competition held in December 2006.
With the honour, Asha has made it to the ranks of the top 15 women composers in America.
Asha was born in Utah and raised in India as well as the US. Her musical compositions are greatly influenced by south Indian Carnatic music.
“I work a lot with what I call scales, it’s probably more proper to call them modes. It has to do with Carnatic music. I don’t know it very well, so my sets may not necessarily be exact. But that has definitely influenced me. It’s my way of having a pitch system,” Asha said.