President Decorates Astronaut of Slovenian Descent


"Sunita Williams ranks among the best-known astronauts who have in the name of the US and the entire human race accomplished important missions at the International Space Station," Pahor said.

"Through her work with various Slovenian organisations, (Sunita) enters the world of Slovenian youth as a role model for their future research and scientific efforts, so that one day they too will reach for the stars. With her sense of belonging to the Slovenian people, she is also a very respectable promoter of the nation and its creativity, scientific achievements, self-confidence and the pushing for new opportunities," the decoration says.

Pahor said Williams was "an inspiration to everybody with dreams and grand visions". He also labelled her a "great personality" and an astronaut and professional who with her "knowledge and courage almost literary breaks barriers and pushes the limits of human knowledge and existence".

He added that Williams was affiliated with the Slovenian Science Foundation through which she brought to Slovenia the latest updates on the progress being made in space flight.

Williams thanked for the decoration and to everyone who made it possible for her to be in Slovenia. She has visited Slovenia three times so far and said she "feels like at home" here.

After the decoration, she also held a short presentation in which she shared some personal insights on how she came to be an astronaut. She also said she hoped that an astronaut from Slovenia would soon have an opportunity to fly to space.

Williams was born in 1965 in Euclid near Cleveland to a mother of Slovenian descent, Bonnie Zalokar, and Deepak Pandya.

She holds the records for the longest single space flight by a woman (195 days), total spacewalks by a woman (seven), and most spacewalk time for a woman (50 hours, 40 minutes).

Sunita is the third astronaut of Slovenian descent to fly to space after Ronald Sega and Jerry Linenger but she was the first one to take to space a kranjska klobasa sausage, a Slovenian delicacy.