Current International Space Station (ISS) Commander Peggy Whitson, ex-KC5ZTD, this week broke the record for cumulative time spent in space by a US astronaut. President Donald Trump — with daughter Ivanka Trump and astronaut Kate Rubins, KG5FYJ, joining him in the Oval Office — called Whitson on April 24 to congratulate her on her accomplishment. With Whitson for the call on board the ISS was astronaut Jack Fischer, KG5FYH, who arrived on April 20 for his first mission aboard ISS.
“Peggy is a phenomenal role model for young women, and all Americans, who are exploring or participating in STEM education programs and careers,” President Trump said. “When I signed the INSPIRE Women Act in February, I did so to ensure more women have access to STEM education and careers, and to ensure America continues to benefit from the contributions of trailblazers like Peggy.”
Whitson tweeted back, “Thank you, Mr. President, for the great opportunity to highlight the research we are doing up here aboard the space station and beyond!”
Last November, Whitson, 57, launched to the ISS on her current mission, with 377 days in space already under her belt, and broke the 534 cumulative-day record in space held by Jeff Williams, KD5TVQ. Whitson became the first woman to command the space station in 2008, and on April 9, she became the first woman to command it twice. She also holds the record for most spacewalks by a female astronaut.
“This is an inspirational record Peggy is setting today, and she would be the first to tell you this is a record that’s absolutely made to be broken as we advance our knowledge and existence as both Americans and humans,” said NASA acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot.
This is Whitson’s third long-duration stay on board the space station, and her mission was recently extended for another 3 months. Instead of returning to Earth in June as originally planned, Whitson will remain on the ISS until September, returning home with Fischer and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, RN3FI.
In addition to scientific research that cannot be conducted on Earth, Whitson and Fischer are scheduled to take part in the fifth spacewalk of the year on May 12, to conduct maintenance. Whitson first served aboard the ISS in 2002 as part of the Expedition 5 crew, was the Expedition 16 Commander some 5 years later, and has conducted numerous Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contacts with students on Earth. Whitson has since let her Amateur Radio license lapse. — Thanks to NASA