An Iowan is a few months away from becoming the first female to lead a long duration space flight. This will be Peggy Whitson’s second trip to the International Space Station, but this time she will be the Mission Commander. The Mount Ayr native says she’s prepared for the challenge of leading the Expedition 16 crew.
Whitson says she’s had extensive training in emergency procedures, and is ready for the role of being responsible for the safety of the crew and vehicle. Whitson and her crew will blast off from Russia in October, and will spend half a year on the space station. She was a first science officer on a 6 month visit to the station back in 2002.
“I was busy all the time,” Whitson says of the trip, “and it felt more like two months.” Whitson says the 2002 mission was a non-stop thrill, except for the food. “The food over time gets a little boring,” Whitson admits, saying the 2002 journey involved only an 8 day food cycle, “and this time around, it’s a 16 day rotation. So, hopefully the variety we’ll see will be a little better.” NASA officials have been publicizing the fact that Whitson will be the first female station commander.
“I guess I have some trepidation being the center of attention about that,” Whitson says, “but at the same time, I think it’s important to be a role model. So, I would hope there will be many young women that would follow in my foot steps.”
Whitson spoke to Radio Iowa Monday from NASA’s Johnson Space Center, following a news conference in Houston with the Expedition 16 crew. When her crew arrives at the space station, Whitson will oversee the addition of four modules that will double the internal volume of the station.