Dr. Peggy Whitson is an American biochemistry researcher and NASA astronaut. Her first space mission was in 2002, with an extended stay aboard the International Space Station as a member of Expedition 5. After completion of her eighth EVA in March 2017, Dr. Whitson now holds the records for the oldest woman spacewalker, and the record for total spacewalks by a woman. Dr. Whitson’s cumulative EVA time is 53 hours, 22 minutes, which placed her in 5th place for total EVA time.
Dr. Whitson was born in Mount Ayr, Iowa, and grew up on a farm outside the nearby town of Beaconsfield, Iowa. She graduated from Mount Ayr Community High School in 1978 and received a bachelor of science degree in biology and chemistry from Iowa Wesleyan College in 1981. She then went on to earn her doctorate degree in biochemistry from Rice University in 1985, and completed post-doctoral work there as well.
After finishing her post-doctoral work, she began her studies at NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC), Houston, Texas, as a National Research Council Resident Research Associate. From April 1988 until 2002 Dr. Whitson fulfilled positions of increasing responsibility at NASA, when she completed her first space mission. Back on the ground, she continued to serve NASA in various positions, to include Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Office and Chief of the Station Operations Branch, Astronaut Office.
A partial list of awards held by Dr. Whitson are: Being Inducted into Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame (2011); Russian Medal of Merit for Space (2011); NASA Space Flight Medal (2002, 2008); Outstanding Leadership Medal (2006); Group Achievement Award for Shuttle-Mir Program (1996); American Astronautical Society Randolph Lovelace II Award (1995); NASA Exceptional Service Medal (1995, 2003, 2006, 2008); Summa Cum Laude from Iowa Wesleyan College (1981); President’s Honor Roll (1978 to 1981); Orange van Calhoun Scholarship (1980); State of Iowa Scholar (1979); Academic Excellence Award (1978).
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Listen to her talk about the challenges of spacewalking.