Astronaut and Iowa native Peggy Whitson has set a U.S. record for space travel. Today is her 535th cumulative day in space, one day longer than the record previously held by astronaut Jeff Williams. Whitson is currently commanding the International Space Station, and this morning took a congratulatory phone call from President Donald Trump.
“That’s an incredible record to break,” Trump said via a video link from the Oval Office. “On behalf of our nation and, frankly, on behalf of the world, I’d like to congratulate you. That is really something.”
Whitson grew up on a farm in Mt. Ayr in southwest Iowa. She says it was the Apollo missions to the moon that first got her interested in becoming an astronaut.
“But I don’t really think it became a goal until I graduated from high school and the first female astronauts were selected,” she said. “Seeing those role models and with the encouragement of my parents and various mentors in college and graduate school and when I started working at Rice [University], that’s what made it possible, I think, to become an astronaut.”
Whitson has worked for NASA since 1989 and took her first space flight in 2002. She’s on her third mission aboard the International Space Station, and is commanding it for the second time. She’s scheduled to return to earth in September.