Nearly 15 years after her first space launch, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson has now spent more time off-planet than any other American, at more than 534 days. Whitson, 57, is a biochemist who has twice commanded the International Space Station.
“It is one of those rides that you hope never ends,” Whitson tweeted last night. “I am so grateful for all those who helped me on each of my missions!”
Her current ride will last for at least another five months, due to an extension of Whitson’s mission that’s projected to leave her with more than 650 days in space, NASA says.
Early this morning, Whitson officially broke the NASA record of 534 days in orbit that was set last year by Jeff Williams. To mark her accomplishment, she received a phone call from President Trump at 10 a.m. ET Monday. At the end of that live-streamed conversation, Whitson performed a forward flip.
In addition to her new time-in-orbit mark, Whitson has spent more than 53 hours outside of an airlock, engaged in spacewalks that added modules to the space station, among other duties.
Whitson was 56 when she left for her third long-term mission aboard the space station last November, making her the oldest U.S. woman in space, as we reported.
Literally and figuratively, it’s been a long journey for Whitson since she started work at NASA in the 1980s. Back then, she was a researcher who supported space missions from the ground. She was named project scientist of the Shuttle-Mir Program in 1992. Four years later, she was selected as an astronaut, and in 2002, she made her first trip to the International Space Station.
Whitson is scheduled to return to Earth’s surface in September.
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