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America’s most experienced astronaut is headed into space once more.
Peggy Whitson, a graduate of Mount Ayr Community High School, is set to command Ax-2, a private mission to the International Space Station (ISS) through Axiom Space.
“Peggy Whitson, of course, really needs no introduction,” stated Axiom CEO and President Michael Suffredini. “She is record-breaking former NASA astronaut and we are very proud of her to be the first female commander of our private mission to the International Space Station.”
Whitson holds records such as the first female commander of the ISS, while also being the only woman to do so twice and the first woman, nonmilitary chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office, while also spending the most cumulative time in space with 665 days, (a number that will grow with this next mission).
Dr. Whitson, who has more than 37 years of NASA experience will be the first woman to command a private space mission, in a statement from Axiom Space.
Dr. Whitson and the multinational crew will fly on a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft attached to a Falcon 9 rocket which will launch them to the ISS where they will begin their 12-day mission.
The four-person crew includes Axiom Space’s Director of Human Spaceflight Peggy Whitson, aviator John Shoffner of Knoxville, Tennessee and two mission specialists, Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The four-person crew will spend “10 days working and living on the orbiting laboratory to implement a full mission manifest of science, outreach and commercial activities.” according to the Axiom Space website. The crew will carry out more than 20 different experiments that are STEM-oriented.
In a press conference, Suffredini stated the research will be applied research which will lead to some product or capability that will benefit humankind.
“Space is really changing right now and I am excited to be apart of expanding humanities access to this amazing frontier,” said Whitson. “I am blessed that I have such a talented crew that not only met but surpassed this training requirements for this mission. We have trained at NASA, SpaceX and also the European Space Agency, Japanese Space Agency, centrifuge training and I feel that has prepared us very well.”
Whitson spoke more in-depth about the research the team will conduct.
“Everything from tumor-organoids which are going to help us predict and prevent cancers with this knowledge that we can gain from doing these studies in micro-gravity all the way to technology demonstrations,” said Whitson. “One of the investigations I’m most interested in is in-space manufacturing investigation, looking at how micro-gravity effects nano particle assembly of potential development of cartilage.”
Whitson is honored in Mount Ayr with a sign as you enter the high school and a sign headed towards Beaconsfield where Whitson first dreamed of being an astronaut, as well as suits displayed in the MACHS commons and Ringgold county courthouse and a rock painted by Bubba Sorensen displaying her achievements.
The crew has undergone extensive training to withstand leaving Earth’s atmosphere and gravitational pull.
Axiom Space is targeting a May 8 launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.