Volume: 05, Issue: 11 04/11/2007 
Astronaut Sunita L. Williams, Expedition 14 flight engineer, equipped with a bungee harness, exercises on the Treadmill Vibration Isolation System in the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA.
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The Expedition 14 crew members from left to right are Flight Engineer Sunita Williams, Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin. Photo credit: NASA
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Sunita Williams. Image credit: NASA.
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Other Articles in This Issue:
Mystery Spiral Arms Explained
NASA Telescope Finds Planets Thrive Around Stellar Twins
Dawn Arrives in Florida
Student Opportunities

NASA Astronaut to Run Boston Marathon in Space

NASA astronaut Suni Williams will go faster than anyone has ever gone in the Boston Marathon. She will run the famed race in April 2007 as an official entrant from 210 miles above Earth aboard the International Space Station. This will be the first time an astronaut in space will be an official participant in a marathon.

Williams hopes her unique run will serve as an inspiration.“I encourage kids to start making physical fitness part of their daily lives,” Williams said. “I think a big goal like a marathon will help get this message out there.”

Williams, who is an accomplished marathoner, has served aboard the space station since December 2006 as a member of the Expedition 14 crew. She will run the race on a station treadmill, circling the Earth at least twice in the process, running as fast as eight miles per hour but flying more than five miles each second.

And she will not be alone in her adventure. Her sister Dina Pandaya and a fellow NASA astronaut, Karen Nyberg, will run the race in Boston. Williams and Nyberg qualified for the Boston race by finishing among the top 100 females in the Houston Marathon in January 2006.

Exercise is essential in NASA’s efforts to counteract the effects of long-duration weightlessness on astronauts’ health. For months, Williams has been training for the marathon while aboard the station. She runs at least four times a week, two longer runs and two shorter runs. Station crews are required to exercise on the treadmill, a stationary bike, and a resistive exercise machine to counter loss of bone density and muscle mass.

“In microgravity, both of these things start to go away because we don’t use our legs to walk around and don’t need the bones and muscles to hold us up under the force of gravity,” Williams said.

Williams a native of Needham, Massachusetts, graduated from Needham High School in 1983. Her family resides in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

Due to the crew’s sleep schedule, Williams’ run of the marathon on the station may not coincide exactly with the race on the ground, but mission control is working to match the events as closely as possible. The Boston Marathon will be held on April 16, 2007.

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