Peggy Whitson, the 58-year-old NASA astronaut and the most experienced space flier of the United States, has retired from the American space agency. She announced her retirement on June 15, 2018. Whitson has spent 665 days in space, and holds the US record for most cumulative time in space. With 10 spacewalks totaling 60 hours and 21 minutes, she also holds the record for most spacewalks by a woman. During her third space mission, she also became the oldest female astronaut (57) to reach the orbit.
Whitson took part in three long-duration missions to the International Space Station (ISS). She served as the chief of the astronaut corps from 2009 to 2012, becoming both the first non-military astronaut corps chief and the first woman to hold the position.
“It’s been the greatest honor to live out my lifelong dream of being a NASA Astronaut,” Whitson tweeted late on Friday.
Peggy completed her first space mission to the ISS, Expedition 5, in 2002. During this mission, she participated in 21 science investigations.
Her second space mission, Expedition 16, was in 2008, and during this mission, she became the first female commander of the ISS.
Her last space mission, spanning Expeditions 50, 51 and 52, started in November 2016. During this mission, which ended in September 2017, she served as the commander of the ISS (Expedition 51) to become the first woman to command the ISS twice.
“Thank to all who have supported me along the way. As I reminisce on my many treasured memories, it’s safe to say my journey at NASA has been out of this world!” Whitson tweeted.
Whitson, a native of Iowa, was born in 1960. She completed doctorate in biochemistry from Rice University in 1985, and one year late, she joined NASA as a National Research Council Resident Research Associate. In 1996, she was selected for the astronaut corps program.
“Peggy Whitson is a testament to the American spirit,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.
“Her determination, strength of mind, character, and dedication to science, exploration, and discovery are an inspiration to NASA and America. We owe her a great debt for her service, and she will be missed. We thank her for her service to our agency and country.”
“Peggy is a classmate and a friend, and she will be deeply missed,” Pat Forrester, the current chief of the Astronaut Office, said in the statement.
“Along with her record-setting career, she leaves behind a legacy of her passion for space.”