On April 24, 2017, NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson established the new record for the most time spent in space by an American astronaut. She’s spent more than 76 weeks of her life floating in microgravity! It’s not the first time in her career at NASA that Whitson has established new milestones: here are just a few.
First NASA Science Officer
Peggy Whitson was the named the first NASA Science Officer aboard the space station in 2002. The position was created to work with the United States research community to understand and meet the requirements and objectives of each space station experiment.
First Female to Command the Space Station… Twice
Whitson became the first female to command the space station during Expedition 16 in 2008. Then Whitson became the first female to command the station twice during her current mission on April 9, 2017.
First Female Chief of the Astronaut Office
In 2009, Whitson became the first female and first non-pilot to achieve the most senior position for active astronauts, Chief of the Astronaut Office.
Most Spacewalks for a Female
On March 30, 2017, Peggy Whitson broke the record for most spacewalks and most time spent spacewalking for female astronauts. Suni Williams had previously held the record at 7 spacewalks.
Most Time In Space By A NASA Astronaut
At 1:27 a.m. ET on April 24, Peggy Whitson set the new record for cumulative time spent in space by an American astronaut. Jeff Williams previously set the record in 2016.
What did the astronauts on the International Space Station see when they looked upon the Earth from orbit in 2017? See some of the top Earth observations from the year and download these pics, as chosen by our Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Astronauts have used hand-held cameras to photograph the Earth for more than 55 years. Beginning with the Mercury missions in the early 1960s, astronauts have taken more than 1.5 million photographs of the Earth. Today, the International Space Station continues this tradition of Earth observation from human-tended spacecraft. Operational since November 2000, the space station is well suited for documenting Earth features. The orbiting laboratory maintains an altitude of about 250 miles above the Earth, providing an excellent stage for observing most populated areas of the world.
The dancing lights of the aurora provide stunning views, but also capture the imagination of scientists who study incoming energy and particles from the sun. Aurora are one effect of such energetic particles, which can speed out from the sun both in a steady stream called the solar wind and due to giant eruptions known as coronal mass ejections or CMEs.
“A classic that I never get tired of: the orange solar panel in front of the blue–white background and the curvature of Earth” wrote astronaut Thomas Pesquet (@thom_astro) of the European Space Agency from aboard the International Space Station.
The space station serves as the world’s leading laboratory for conducting cutting-edge microgravity research, and is the primary platform for technology development and testing in space to enable human and robotic exploration of destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, including Mars.