For astronaut Sunita Williams, her impending return to Boston this May is a homecoming. Although she was born in Ohio, Williams grew up in the Bay State.
But, why is she here, now?
As Keith Lockhart and The Boston Pops open their Spring Pops season May 8 with legendary singer Bernadette Peters, Williams, too, will share the stage. She’s here to narrate the story to “From the Earth to the Moon and Beyond” by composer James Beckel, as the Pops celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.
Williams hasn’t done much like this before, and she admits to being a little nervous. She’ll be narrating the concerts on May 8 and 9. Later in the month, at eight different concerts running through June, a current or former astronaut will sit the role, including Dr. Mae Jamison on May 15-16.
The arts have always held an important place in Williams’ life. She remembers that while she was growing up her father, a neuroscientist was a big proponent of creativity and imagination as a companion to science.
“When I was a kid, we used to always go to the Fourth of July [concert] at the Hatch Shell. Someone had to be the sacrificial lamb and go and sit there before the place got totally crowded,” she says, laughing.
Today, conductor Keith Lockhart’s music is on Williams’ space playlist. She reports that every astronaut can have a playlist uploaded to the space station; typically, it’s played while they work out. Yes, there is apparently a gym in space.
“It’s nice to have music playing, it reminds you of things back home,” says Williams. As a result, a lot of the music is nostalgic, American music, and for her that means the Pops.
Williams is extremely excited to celebrate 50 years since the moon landing, but she is even more excited about what we may be celebrating in another 50 years.
“I hope that space travel, like a lap around the planet, is accessible to anyone just like it is to get an airline flight from Houston to Boston,” she says. “Not everybody gets to do that, but I hope it happens. I think if people look at our planet from that perspective we’d have a lot more people taking care of our planet.”