“I love being up here”
Image via NASA
Peggy Whitson is no stranger to defying steep odds. As a NASA astronaut, she’s broken several records as the first woman to command the International Space Station, the oldest woman to venture into space at 57 years old, and the top female astronaut when it comes to collective space walking time. As of April 6, she’s spent a cumulative total of 515 days in space, and is mere weeks away from beating fellow U.S. astronaut Jeff Williams’ record of 534 days in space. And on Sunday, she’ll become the first woman to command the ISS twice. Now, she will tack on an additional three months to her expedition on the ISS, NASA reports.
In a statement, Whitson said,
“This is great news. 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.”
I’ll be working aboard the @Space_Station longer than expected! This is where I make the greatest contribution so I… https://t.co/piBAji2IrH— Peggy Whitson (@Peggy Whitson)1491429041.0
To facilitate the extension of Whitson’s expedition, NASA coordinated with Russian space agency Roscosmos to cut one astronaut from Russia’s crew soon arriving at the space station, leaving a vacant seat for Whitson on their return trip. On April 20, the Russian spacecraft Soyuz will bring NASA’s Jack Fischer and Russia’s Fyodor Yurchikhin to the ISS. In September, it will carry both of them along with Whitson back to Earth—unless she figures out a way to stay, of course.
This not only marks an exciting development for space travel, but for international cooperation as well. Whitson’s research and contributions to the astronomy field does not only benefit like-minded scientists, but benefits the entire world, making cooperation between countries all the more crucial. NASA’s International Space Station program manager, Kirk Shireman, said in a statement, “Peggy’s skill and experience makes her an incredible asset aboard the space station. 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.”