Women in Science: NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson Gets An Extra 3 Months In Space [Video]By Anne Collins, UniversityHerald Reporter
On Wednesday, NASA announced that astronaut Peggy Whitson will remain on the International Space Station for another three months. The 57-year-old arrived in the ISS last November and was supposed to return to Earth June instead of September.
NASA and the Russian Space Agency had an agreement that the record-breaking spacewalker will stay to take advantage of an empty seat on a Soyuz capsule in the fall. This is Whitson's third mission and will now last close to 10 months.
She will stay with the Expedition 52 crew and the other two men she flew with to Expedition 51, which are European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy will return to Earth in June, Space reported.
Scientists will monitor changes to her body, in the hopes of adding more knowledge from retired astronaut Scott Kelly's recent one-year flight. Whitson said she loves living and working up in the space station. She feels that she needs to make the most of her time there so that she can make the greatest contributions and that having three more months was what she would wish for.
The decision came from a Soyus seat that will be left empty by the Jack Fischer of NASA and Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos on April 20. Whitson's extension will ensure a full complement of six astronauts on board the station after Fischer and Yurchikhin return to Earth in September. It will increase the amount of valuable astronaut time for experiments on board.
The Daily Mail reported, Kirk Shireman, NASA's International Space Station Program Manager said Whitson's skills and experience makes her an incredible asset aboard the ISS. The station's research, technology development commercial and international partner communities will greatly benefit by extending the stay of NASA's most veteran astronaut.
Last week, Whitson broke another record for the longest spacewalk by a woman. It was her eight spacewalk for her career. As of Wednesday, Whitson has spent a total of 514 days in space. NASA astronaut Jeff Williams set the record in 2016 with a total of 534 days.