More than eight months after arriving at the International Space Station (ISS), record-breaking NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson is still having a blast.
"I haven't felt bored since I got here in November last year," Whitson said from orbit Wednesday (July 26) in a video interview with a representative of the Guinness Book of World Records. "I think if you have the right attitude, you can stay in space for a long period of time, and it's actually very satisfying and enjoy[able]."
Some of the enjoyment, she added, comes courtesy of the microgravity environment. [Peggy Whitson: Record-Breaking Astronaut's Feats in Pictures]
"To be able to float and move around and, pretty much effortlessly, do whatever you want with your body in space is pretty amazing," Whitson said. (She did note, however, that this freedom can complicate work with small items, which often must be taped down to keep them from floating away.)
Whitson holds three official Guinness world records — most spacewalks by a woman (10), most total spacewalk time by a woman (60 hours and 21 minutes) and oldest female astronaut to reach space (57). She also holds the mark for most cumulative time in space by a NASA astronaut (629 days and counting).
Whitson said that such records are nice, but mostly as a marker of how NASA continues to push the envelope in human spaceflight.
"I feel like the reason I'm here is to do my job, and I'm going to do it to the best of my abilities," she said. "The records, I think, are important for NASA, to demonstrate what we're doing, how we're expanding and what we're improving on. And that continual improvement, that continual expansion of our records, is an important one for all of us at NASA, not just me."
Whitson reached the ISS on Nov. 19, 2016, aboard a three-person Russian Soyuz spacecraft. She was originally scheduled to return to Earth last month, but NASA and Russia's federal space agency, known as Roscosmos, signed an agreement in April to keep Whitson at the orbiting lab for three additional months.
This arrangement — which takes advantage of an empty seat on a Soyuz scheduled to depart the ISS in September — keeps the orbiting lab fully staffed at six crewmembers for a longer stretch, allowing more science work to get done, NASA officials have said.
Whitson has served aboard the ISS on three different long-term stints, but her spaceflight dreams don't end in Earth orbit.
"I would love to set foot on another planet — lunar or Mars, or somewhere. But I'm afraid I might be getting a tad bit old for that, unfortunately," Whitson said with a laugh.