Space Age: Astronaut Peggy Whitson Talks Aging & Spaceflight | Exclusive Video

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson smiles as she listens to a reporter's questions ahead of final qualification exams at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) in Star City, Russia, for a launch to the International Space Station with the Expedition 50 crew. Whitson will launch on a Russian Soyuz rocket on Nov. 17, 2016. (Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson — who will become the first woman to command the International Space Station twice — shares her experience as an older space traveler in a new YouTube video for the AARP provided exclusively to

Whitson will launch back to the space station on Thursday (Nov. 17) on Expedition 50, along with crewmates Oleg Novitskiy (Roscosmos) and Thomas Pesquet (European Space Agency). She will take command of the orbiting lab's Expedition 51 mission in 2017.

AARP is running a campaign called #DisruptAging, in concert with a new book published by CEO Jo Ann Jenkins. Whitson, 56, participated by talking about how her age and experience are helping to benefit space exploration. She said that while she felt she had a strong history as an astronaut, she wasn't sure if she would be accepted for another spaceflight after her last mission, Expedition 16. [An Interview with Peggy Whitson]

"When I got back from Expedition 16 [in 2008], I became chief of the [Astronaut] Office," said Whitson in the video, speaking of a NASA management role that requires staying on the ground. 

"It was actually a very satisfying job, but I did know that I still wanted to fly again — at least, I was not willing to say I didn't want to fly anymore. So that's when I stepped down to get back in line [for a flight]."

Whitson's accomplishments to date include two six-month flights in space (Expeditions 5/6, and Expeditions 16/17). She accumulated 377 days in space so far, the most for any woman. Whitson has done six space walks, and she kept her taste for spaceflight despite an off-target, high-G force landing in 2008

In recent years, she was an advocate for changing lifelong spaceflight radiation guidelines for women, which she said are discriminatory since women hit limits quicker than men.

Her time working in space extends back to even before she was selected as an astronaut in 1996. Some of her previous roles include project scientist for the shuttle-Mir program and payload element developer for a bone cell research experiment on NASA's STS-47 space shuttle mission.

"I definitely am a different astronaut now. I have a much bigger-picture perspective," Whitson added, citing her spaceflight and management roles. She said she is using that perspective to help people such as her crewmate Pesquet, who will make his first flight in space by her side.

Follow Elizabeth Howell @howellspace, or @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook and Google+. Original article on

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: