HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - By: Melanie Yamaguchi
To commemorate the life and achievements of Big Island Astronaut Ellison Onizuka on the 27th anniversary of the Challenger space shuttle disaster, Astronaut Sunita Williams paid a visit to the Challenger Center Hawaii at Barbers Point Elementary School to share her own experiences with Kaimuki Middle School students.
"She told us that it takes two and a half years to become an astronaut and I don't think that being an astronaut is that easy," said Cara Yoshimi, a sixth grader at Kaimuki Middle School.
With almost 10 years of naval aviation experience and nearly 3,000 flight hours in more than 30 different aircrafts, Williams was selected by NASA in June 1998 and began her training and evaluation period in August.
She embarked on her first space flight - ISS Expedition 14/15 - in December 2006 and established a world record for females by going on four spacewalks totaling 29 hours and 17 minutes of Extravehicular Activity. Williams returned to Earth in June 2007.
On her second space flight - ISS Expedition 32/33 - Williams spent July through November 2012 conducting research and exploration. She also completed three spacewalks - totaling 50 hours and 40 minutes - and returned to Earth still holding a world record for total cumulative spacewalk time by a female astronaut.
Williams, who lives in Needham, Mass. with her husband Michael, ranks sixth on the all-time U.S. endurance list and second all-time for a female. She spent a total of 322 days in space.
For more information about the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, go to http://www.challenger.org/.