Where in the World Is Flat Gorby?

A record-breaking female astronaut reunites with her family and her dog.

ByGina Sunseri

June 22, 2007 — -- Go ahead. Google "Flat Gorby." To make it easier add "Expedition 15" and "Suni Williams" to the search.

Sunita Williams aka Suni is returning home on shuttle flight STS 117 after spending six months on the International Space Station. She is a tall, athletic woman, a Navy pilot and now quite an accomplished astronaut. She set a new record for the most spacewalking time by a woman — 29 hours and 17 minutes. By the time she lands she will also have set an endurance record for longest time on orbit for a woman, at least 194 days.

That is 194 days without her family, her favorite food and her dog, Gorby. Gorby is a Jack Russell terrier that was little known outside Williams' circle of family and friends before she launched into space in December

Gorby is now also known as Flat Gorby — after the famous Flat Stanley, something every third-grade student in the country can tell you about — and he is becoming famous now, as a pinup. There are Flat Gorby photos all over the International Space Station.

During Williams' six months on orbit, Flat Gorby has been spotted in a cowboy hat, a Santa outfit and wearing a space helmet. There is a Flat Gorby inside Williams' locker on the space station, and the crew on NEEMO, NASA's underwater training facility, has a photo of Flat Gorby on the wall.

Williams' sister Dina has been taking care of Gorby while her sister is in space. She made sure Williams was kept up to date on Gorby's well-being.

"I'd send her pictures, almost daily, of what he's doing," Dina told ABC News.

Williams, when interviewed in orbit before she left the space station, told ABC News, "I miss my family, my dog, Gorby, and sushi."

Before her launch, Williams sent invitations to friends and family inviting them to the event. The invitation was a photo of her in a spacesuit holding Gorby — both were wearing Red Sox hats. Williams' training team at the Johnson Space Center has made T-shirts that say "Suni-Gorby World Tour December 2006 — June 2007."

Tim Reynolds, operations manager for one of the astronaut-training facilities at the Johnson Space Center, has Flat Gorby images pinned up in his building. He and his colleagues took a picture with their Flat Gorby and e-mailed it to Williams on the space station. Reynolds understands "Gorbymania."

"Gorby is a wild … terrier with a great personality. Suni loves and misses Gorby just a little less than she misses her husband, Mike, and we know she misses him very much."

Where will Gorby be when Williams finally lands? "I am not exactly sure where he will be. … He is probably going to be in Massachusetts with my family but he should be back in Texas by the time I get home and hopefully we can go for a walk on the beach on Sunday morning," Williams said.

How many miles have Williams and Flat Gorby traveled? Let's see, that's 194 days. It takes 90 minutes to orbit Earth at 17,900 mph. So we are at more than 54 million miles, and counting.

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