More than a decade since her first launch, astronaut Peggy Whitson gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “reach for the stars.” As of Monday, the 57-year-old biochemist and two-time commander of the International Space Station, has now spent more time living in orbit around her home planet than any other American.
Having surpassed 534 days in orbit, Whitson broke the record for most days in space previously set in August of 2016 by astronaut Jeff Williams. When she launched on Expedition 50/51 last November — her third long-term mission since she was selected for her first trip to the International Space Station in 2002 — Whitson had already made NASA history. At 56, she became the oldest woman in space. Logging more than 53 hours outside of airlock, she is the first woman to complete eight successful spacewalks, another NASA record.
To mark her historic achievement, Whitson spoke with President Trump via live-streamed video conference on Monday at 10 a.m. EST. “It is one of those rides that you hope never ends,” Whitson Tweeted on Sunday evening. “I am so grateful for all those who helped me on each of my missions!”
Having begun her career with NASA in the mid 1980s, Whitson’s accomplishment is the pinnacle of an almost 30-year career that shows no signs of slowing down. Extended in March, her current mission will not return her to Earth until September, at which point Whitson will have spent upwards of 650 days in outer space.
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