A self-proclaimed Iowa farm girl-turned-astronaut is being named by NASA to command a mission to the International Space Station this fall. It’ll be the second spaceflight for Mount Ayr native Peggy Whitson, who spent six months aboard the orbiting station in 2002. Whitson says she’s thrilled to be chosen for a repeat journey.
Whitson says "Probably, as much as anything, my desire to go back, to do it again. I have a lot of my previous work with the Russians helped a lot. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just lucky." The 47-year-old says there are few things she’d change on this mission, except maybe the supply of pre-packaged food that’s being sent along with her in the Russian Soyuz capsule in October.
Whitson says, laughing, "My food selections have changed. I know now what I like and what I don’t like in my preference foods and my bonus foods. I’ve gotten a lot more specific about what I do and don’t want to see." During her 2002 mission, Whitson worked with Iowa-based Pioneer Hi-Bred International on an experiment to grow soybeans in space as a possible food source for astronauts.
This next time, she says the focus of the mission has shifted somewhat , and so will her experiments. Whitson says: "We are focusing our scientific work on how to keep humans in space healthy for longer periods of time because that’s our highest priority in terms of going back to the Moon and staying long durations and going to Mars. So most of the investigations that we’ll have will actually involve life sciences, which is good for me, because that’s my background."
Whitson is married and lives in Houston, Texas. She’s a 1981 graduate of Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant with a B.S. in biochemistry.