|She’s done it again! |
Ringgold County native and NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson this week set the record for cumulative days in space by a U.S. astronaut.
At 1:27 a.m. EDT on April 24, Whitson marked her 535th cumulative day in space, surpassing the record formerly held by astronaut Jeff Williams.
And she’s not done yet. According to NASA, Whitson’s mission has been extended to early September. By that time she will have accumulated over 650 days in space.
The world record for cumulative days is held by Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, who logged 878 days over five missions.
To mark Whitson’s achievement, President Donald Trump, his daughter Ivanka and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins communicated Monday morning with Whitson and fellow astronaut Jack Fischer via a video link with the International Space Station.
“This is a very special day in the glorious history of American spaceflight,” Trump told Whitson. “You have broken the record for the most total time spent in space by an American astronaut. That’s an incredible record to break… On behalf of our nation and, frankly, on behalf of our world, I’d like to thank you.”
“It’s actually a huge honor to break a record like this,” Whitson replied. “It’s an honor for me to be representing all the folks at NASA who make space travel possible and make me setting this record feasible.”
Whitson is no stranger to milestone spaceflight achievements.
She was the first woman to command the International Space Station, a position she currently holds for a second time.
She holds the current records for most spacewalks by a female (8) and cumulative time spacewalking time for a female (53 hours, 22 minutes).
Whitson is planning to complete her ninth spacewalk May 12, a mission scheduled to last over six-and-a-half hours. If all goes as planned, her total for nine spacewalks will be nearly 60 hours, moving her up to third all-time behind cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev (82 hours, 22 minutes) and former NASA astronaut Mike Lopez-Alegria (67 hours, 40 minutes).
“I don’t really know how I got this lucky!” Whitson said earlier in an interview with CBS News. “It’s been amazing to have the opportunities that I’ve had, it’s just amazing to me (how) some dedication and a lot of hard work paid off at the end. It’s just unbelievable.”