No woman from Iowa has ever been in space — but that will change with Thursday’s liftoff of the Shuttle Endeavour. Astronaut and Mount Ayr native Peggy Whitson will carry the seal of her alma mater, Iowa Wesleyan College, into orbit. An expert in biology and chemistry, the 42-year-old Whitson will conduct experiments during her four months in space that may let future astronauts stay longer. She says the goals of her research are to understand the effects of living in space for a long time and to reduce or eliminate the risks. Whitson says she’s not afraid about the launch or the mission, though she’ll miss her family and friends, as she now has e-mail and a phone to call home.She looks forward to visiting family, friends and schools in Iowa when she returns to Earth this fall, to share her experiences — and to take the four-inch cloth seal back to Iowa Wesleyan. Whitson says the toughest part of her training has been learning to speak Russian so she can communicate with her two crewmates aboard the I-S-S. Though she’s married, Whitson says it won’t be strange to be living in close quarters with two Russian men during the four-month mission so far from home. “I’ve trained with these guys for a year and a half now and am very comfortable with them — they’re good friends of mine.” Whitson says she’s not afraid of tight spaces and she’s not concerned about the close quarters on the station. She says one of the tests to see if you can fly in space is to check you for claustrophobia.Whitson will be the first Iowa -woman- in space and the sixth Iowan. Lieutenant Colonel Jim Kelly of Burlington piloted a shuttle last year. Other Iowans who’ve flown aboard shuttles are: George Nelson of Charles City, Colonel David Hilmers of Clinton and Colonel Loren Shriver of Jefferson. Also back in the 1960s, Colonel Walter Cunningham of Creston flew aboard Apollo Seven.
You are here: / / Iowa woman poised to enter space