The first Iowa woman in space is due to return to earth Saturday after setting several high-flying records. Peggy Whitson will come home on a Russian Soyuz capsule after having spent 377 days in orbit over her two six-month missions on the International Space Station.
That’s a new endurance record for any American in space. Whitson, who’s 48, has also set a world record for most spacewalking time for a woman — at just shy of 40 hours. The Beaconsfield native was also the station’s first female commander.
During an interview with Radio Iowa last October from orbit, said there was no pressure, laughing: “The biggest pressure I have is answering questions from the press.” On her first mission in 2002, Whitson was named the orbiting station’s first science officer. She’s also the first astronaut ever given a second assignment aboard the station and it’s believed she’s the only person to ride into and back from orbit on both a Soyuz and a shuttle.