Dr. Peggy Whitson was the first female, nonmilitary Chief of the Astronaut Office. During her long NASA career she traveled to the International Space Station for three long-duration missions culminating in a total of 665 days in space, and became the first woman commander of the ISS. After retiring from NASA in 2018, she joined Axiom Space and was named commander of the second crewed Axiom mission, flying to the ISS once again as the first woman to command a private spaceflight.
Dr. Whitson began her work at NASA’s Johnson Space Center as a Research Biochemist. She was later named as Project Scientist of the Shuttle-Mir Program and served in this capacity until the conclusion of the ISS Phase 1A Program in 1995.
April 1996, Whitson was selected as an Astronaut Candidate. After training she was assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office Operations Planning Branch and served as the lead for the Crew Test Support Team in Russia.
From October 2009 to July 2012, Whitson served as Chief of the Astronaut Corps and was responsible for the mission preparation activities and on-orbit support of all International Space Station crews and their support personnel
Peggy A. Whitson (Ph.D.), an Iowa native, completed two six-month tours of duty and a third, nearly one year mission, aboard the International Space Station. She served as the station commander during her second flight for Expedition 16 and her third for Expedition 51. Across all three NASA spaceflights, Whitson has accumulated 665 days in space, the most for any woman. Whitson has also performed a total of ten career spacewalks, adding up to 60 hours and 21 minutes. Whitson retired from NASA in June 2018
Astronaut Peggy A. Whitson, Expedition 16 commander, participates in a session of extravehicular activity (EVA) as construction continues on the International Space Station (ISS). During the spacewalk Whitson and cosmonaut Yuri I. Malenchenko (out of frame), flight engineer representing Russia’s Federal Space Agency, prepared for the relocation of the Pressurized Mating Adapter 2 (PMA-2) and the subsequent move of the new Harmony node to its permanent ISS home. (9 Nov. 2007)
Missions Flown by Peggy Whitson
ISS Expedition 5
STS-111 launched on June 5, 2002 and delivered the three Expedition 5 crew members, Commander Valery Korzun and flight engineers Sergei Treshchev and Peggy Whitson. Dr. Whitson also became NASA's first ISS Science Officer.
Peggy Whitson served as the first female commander for Expedition 16. When STS-120, commanded by Pam Melroy, docked with the station, it marked the first time that two female mission commanders were in orbit simultaneously.
Arriving onboard the ISS for Expedition 51, Peggy Whitson (56 at the time) became the oldest woman to fly into space. After taking command of the mission, she became the first woman to command two ISS expeditions.
For long duration exploration, a fresh food supply will be important for crews to thrive in space. During Expedition 51 crewmembers grew Chinese cabbage and Romaine lettuce in the Veggie plant growth chamber.
Experimentation on ISS helps further our understanding of how long-duration exposure to microgravity will affect future astronauts. During Expedition 52, Whitson performed experiments for a cardiac stem cell study on human aging.