Already poised to break the record for cumulative time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut, Peggy Whitson is set to extend her mission with an additional three months at the International Space Station.
NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos, signed an agreement to extend Peggy Whitson’s stay on the space station into Expedition 52. Rather than returning to Earth with her Expedition 51 crew mates Oleg Novitsky of Roscosmos and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency), in June as originally planned, Whitson will remain on the space station and return home with NASA’s Jack Fischer and Roscosmos’ Fyodor Yurchikhin. That landing is targeted for September.
“This is great news,” Whitson said. “I love being up here. Living and working aboard the space station is where I feel like I make the greatest contribution, so I am constantly trying to squeeze every drop out of my time here. Having three more months to squeeze is just what I would wish for.”
The arrangement takes advantage of a Soyuz seat left empty by the Roscosmos decision to temporarily reduce their crew complement to two cosmonauts. Whitson’s extension will ensure a full complement of six astronauts on board the station and increase the amount of valuable astronaut time available for experiments on board the station.
“Peggy’s skill and experience makes her an incredible asset aboard the space station,” said Kirk Shireman, NASA’s International Space Station Program Manager. “By extending the stay of one of NASA’s most veteran astronauts, our research, our technology development, our commercial and our international partner communities will all benefit."
This is Whitson’s third long-duration stay onboard the space station. She launched on Nov. 17 with 377 days in space already under her belt, and on April 24 will break Jeff Williams’ standing United States record of 534 cumulative days in space. In 2008, Whitson became the first woman to command the space station, and on April 9 will become the first woman to command it twice. In addition, she holds the record for most spacewalks by a female.
President Trump Makes Special Long-Distance Call to Record Breaking American Astronaut
First Daughter Joins International Space Station Call Promoting Women in STEM
President Donald Trump, First Daughter Ivanka Trump, and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will make a special Earth-to-space call Monday, April 24, from the Oval Office to personally congratulate NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson for her record-breaking stay aboard the International Space Station.
The 20-minute call will air live on NASA Television and stream on the agency’s website and Facebook page at 10 a.m. EDT, and will be made available to schools, museums, and other organizations across the nation and globally.
The Department of Education and NASA are working together, on behalf of the White House, to encourage classrooms throughout America to tune-in to this historic event. They also are making available for voluntary use STEM on Station educational materials that may be helpful to further engage students in the classroom. STEM on Station is comprised of education activities that follow astronauts as they demonstrate STEM concepts such as Newton’s Laws of Motion, surface tension and advances in technology.
Commander of the station’s Expedition 51 crew, Whitson will officially set the U.S. record Monday for most cumulative days in space, surpassing NASA astronaut Jeff Williams’ record of 534 days. Additionally, she is the first woman to command the space station twice, and holds the record for most spacewalks conducted by a female astronaut.
Whitson will be joined for President Trump’s call by NASA astronaut Jack Fischer, who is scheduled to arrive at the orbiting laboratory Thursday, April 20.
Whitson arrived at the space station Nov. 19, 2016, and is sharing her experiences in space on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. Fischer will share his first-time flyer experiences on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Record-Breaking NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson Sets New Record for Time in Space
534 days, 2 hours, 49 minutes and counting.
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson flew through the standing record for cumulative time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut at 1:27 a.m. EDT on April 24, and with the recent extension of her stay at the International Space Station, she has five months to rack up a new one.
Record holder is a familiar title for Whitson – she’s held several over the course of her NASA career. In 2008, Whitson became the first woman to command the space station, and on April 9 became the first woman to command it twice. In March, she seized the record for most spacewalks by a female. Now, after launching on Nov. 17 with 377 days in space already under her belt, she’s surpassed astronaut Jeff Williams’ previous United States record of 534 days, 2 hours and 48 minutes of cumulative time in space.
This is Whitson’s third long-duration stay onboard the space station, and in March her mission was extended into September, increasing the amount of valuable astronaut time available for experiments on board the station. When she returns to Earth, she’ll have spent more than 650 days in space, and decades supporting spaceflight from the ground.
Whitson began her NASA career in the 1980s. With a doctorate in biochemistry, she held a number of research-related positions, and in 1992 was named project scientist of the Shuttle-Mir Program. She also served as deputy division chief of the Medical Sciences Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and co-chair of the U.S.-Russian Mission Science Working Group before being selected as an astronaut in 1996.
She made her first trip to the International Space Station in 2002. Space shuttle Endeavour delivered her and her Expedition 5 crewmates for a 184-day stay in the four modules that made up the space station at the time. While there, she took part in 21 science investigations and became the first NASA science officer. In 2008, Whitson returned as commander of Expedition 16, and was on hand for the installation of the Harmony node, the Columbus laboratory and the Kibo logistics module. She spent another 192 days in space and performed her first five spacewalks.
Since returning for her third stay in November, Whitson has added another three spacewalks to her list, bringing her total time spent outside the space station to more than 53 hours. With the title for most spacewalks by a female and most time spent spacewalking by a female already secure, she’ll add to both numbers on May 12, when she is scheduled to venture out of the station’s airlock again.
Between trips to space, Whitson was named chief of the astronaut office in 2009, becoming the first female to hold the position, which she remained in until 2012.