Astronaut Peggy Whitson Retiring: Six NASA Records She Broke

After more than 30 years of working with NASA, astronaut Peggy Whitson is retiring, the agency announced Friday. Whitson, whose retirement was effective Friday, tweeted, "It's been the greatest honor to live out my lifelong dream of being a @NASA astronaut."

Whitson did three long-stay missions on the International Space Station (ISS) during her time with NASA and logged thousands of hours of research. During her time with the agency, she spent 665 days in space altogether.

"Peggy Whitson is a testament to the American spirit," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a release. "Her determination, strength of mind, character, and dedication to science, exploration, and discovery are an inspiration to NASA and America. We owe her a great debt for her service and she will be missed. We thank her for her service to our agency and country."

Whitson started her career with NASA doing research at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. It wasn't until 1996 that she was selected for the astronaut corps. Her first trip to the station happened in 2002, on Expedition 5. Her second trip was Expedition 16 in 2008, when she served as commander of the station. Her last mission spanned a total of three expeditions, 50, 51 and 52, during 2016 and 2017.

"She set the highest standards for human spaceflight operations as well as being an outstanding role model for women and men in America and across the globe. Godspeed, Peg," said Brian Kelly, director of flight operations at Johnson.

During her time with NASA, astronaut Whitson broke multiple records, a few of which appear below.

Six records Peggy Whitson broke:

  1. Whitson holds the record for most days in space by a NASA astronaut, and is ranked eighth in the world for most time spent by an astronaut in space.
  2. Whitson was the first female to lead the Astronaut Office as chief, and the first to lead it without being in the military.
  3. On her first trip to the ISS, Whitson made history as the first NASA science officer on the station.
  4. Whitson was the first female commander of the ISS.
  5. She was also the first woman to command the ISS twice.
  6. Whitson holds the record for the most space walks done outside of the ISS by a female NASA astronaut: She did 10 space walks during her multiple trips to the ISS.
peggy whitson
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., on March 2. NASA/Joel Kowsky