Peggy Whitson joined NASA as an astronaut candidate in 1996, but she had already done plenty of work with NASA. A biochemist by training, Whitson spent several years at Johnson Space Center and working on the science team for the space shuttle-Mir program. Since becoming an astronaut, she alternated between working in the Astronaut Office and working for NASA in orbit. She first flew in June 2002 and most recently returned to Earth in September 2017. Between her three flights, she has spent 665 days in space, a record for U.S. astronauts.
Peggy A. Whitson
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson holds the record for the most cumulative spacewalking time by a woman. She has been to space three times and participated in three long-term expeditions to the International Space Station.
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson (left) waves while Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin (center) and NASA astronaut Jack Fischer (right) give two thumbs up during a post-landing photo shoot on Sept. 2, 2017. Whitson spent 288 days in space, which set a new single-flight duration record for women in space. (That record was broken by NASA astronaut Christina Koch in 2019 and 2020.) With a total of 665 days in orbit, she has spent more cumulative time in space than any NASA astronaut.
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson is helped out of the Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft just minutes after landing on Sept. 2, 2017.
Peggy gets a hand
NASA's all-star astronaut Peggy Whitson gets a hand while getting out of a helicopter at the Karaganda airport in Kazakhstan, where the Soyuz MS-04 crew attended a welcoming ceremony.
A new record
NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough (left) and Peggy Whitson (right) took a spacewalk on March 24, 2017. Whitson broke the record for the most total spacewalking time for a female astronaut during the spacewalk, which was the eighth of her career.
NASA's Peggy Whitson performed her seventh spacewalk during Expedition 50, breaking the record for most EVAs for a female astronaut. She has now done a total of 10 spacewalks.
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson (center) poses with crewmates Shane Kimbrough of NASA (right) and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency ahead of a Jan. 13, 2017, spacewalk outside the International Space Station.
Peggy Whitson in Unity module
NASA's Peggy Whitson garnered the title of oldest woman in space, and first woman to command the station twice with her third trip to the space station.
Space station prankster
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson pops out of a cargo bag during a prank on the International Space Station on Feb. 13, 2017.
Astronaut Peggy Whitson, Expedition 16 commander, dons a training version of the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) space suit prior to being submerged in the waters of the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory near the Johnson Space Center in Houston. In 2003, she served as commander of the fifth NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) mission.
Underwater for outer space
At the Sonny Carter Training Facility inside the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, astronauts Peggy Whitson of NASA and Thomas Pesquet of ESA, crewmembers of Expedition 50/51, participate in a suited, underwater training for the International Space Station EVA Maintenance 7 in January 2016.
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Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at FutureFlight.aero and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at Space.com. As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.