Sunita Williams astronaut

February 14, 2014
This felt a bit weird to me so

And now the game where we invite on really impressive people who've done interesting things so they can try to do something else. Sunita Williams, known as Suni around the Johnson Space Center here in Houston, has been on the International Space Station for so much time, she can float around with her eyes closed. She set records for time spent in space and still holds it for the longest spacewalk. We are glad she's back on Earth and can join us here. Suni Williams, welcome to WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME.

(APPLAUSE)

SUNITA WILLIAMS: Thank you.

SAGAL: So, I happen to know that you grew up in the nice suburb of Boston of Needham.

WILLIAMS: Yep.

SAGAL: Which produces more than its share of doctors and lawyers and accountants and consultants. And how did you get from Needham to low Earth orbit?

WILLIAMS: So, I wanted to be a veterinarian and...

SAGAL: Whoa, you screwed that up.

(LAUGHTER)

WILLIAMS: Yeah, I sort of went the wrong turn and actually didn't get into the universities that I wanted to do that and ended up under the influence or guidance of my older brother to go to the Naval Academy.

SAGAL: Wait a minute. You went to the U.S. Naval Academy as, like, a backup school?

WILLIAMS: Well, my brother said they like to camp and we camped when we were kids. And so he said I'd like it. And I did.

SAGAL: Really?

WILLIAMS: Yeah.

SAGAL: You went to the U.S. Naval Academy 'cause you like to go camping.

SAGAL: You know, they're generally on boats, the Navy.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, I missed that point, a little bit.

SAGAL: Really? OK.

WILLIAMS: So, I finished there and was trying to figure out what to do - at the end of that, we get to pick by our class standing. And I was not the top, not the end, somewhere in the middle. And I wanted to be a diver because I was a swimmer. I didn't get that billet but, at the same time, "Top Gun" came out so I thought I would be Tom Cruise and go fly airplanes. So, that was my goal.

PAULA POUNDSTONE: So we owe it to Tom Cruise that you're here with us?

WILLIAMS: I never thought about that way, but I guess so.

SAGAL: Hey, Tom.

POUNDSTONE: Yeah, thank you, Tom Cruise.

SAGAL: So, seriously did - you were like, OK, send me to Miramar I want to be a fighter pilot?

SAGAL: And what happened?

WILLIAMS: Well, I didn't get to do that.

SAGAL: Oh.

WILLIAMS: I flew helicopters, which actually is the second best view of the earth. The first best view is, I think, a little bit higher.

SAGAL: Right. So, now you're like - you're a helicopter pilot, flying combat helicopters, right, off of aircraft carriers thinking, I wonder if it's too late for veterinary school, but hey.

WILLIAMS: I was. So, I was sort of curious about how helicopters work because it was sort of a mystery to me. You know, you stick the key in or whatever, you raise the collective and the cyclic and you start to fly.

POUNDSTONE: Sure.

WILLIAMS: And like, how the heck does this thing work? So, I wanted to learn how to figure that out so I went to test pilot school. And that's the first time I actually came down here to Johnson Space Center and met real astronauts and learned what they did and thought that would be pretty cool too - almost cooler than Tom Cruise - so, what the heck.

SAGAL: This sounds very accidental.

WILLIAMS: That's life, yeah.

SAGAL: You know, I mean, a lot of people are like, well, I did this, and I did that, and I ended up in a trailer with three kids.

SAGAL: You ended up on the International Space Station, which you have been to how many times?

WILLIAMS: Two times.

SAGAL: Only twice?

WILLIAMS: Only twice.

SAGAL: Twice, OK.

WILLIAMS: But for long times each time.

SAGAL: But you still hold the record, I am told, for the longest spacewalk.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, well, the number of them.

SAGAL: Most number of spacewalks.

WILLIAMS: For women.

SAGAL: For women.

POUNDSTONE: So...

WILLIAMS: As my husband would say, not bad for a girl.

SAGAL: Not bad for a girl. And did you have to do so many 'cause you kept forgetting things outside?

WILLIAMS: I hope not.

SAGAL: No, it's like, oh, I left my keys outside, I got to...

Source: www.npr.org
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