Record-breaking NASA astronaut lands back on Earth

Sunday 03 2017 3 weeks ago 27   Washington   Print

Record-breaking NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson-File Photo

Report  Web Desk : WASHINGTON: A record-shattering NASA astronaut returns to Earth on Sunday, finishing a 288-day mission that put her over the top as the American who has spent the most cumulative amount of time in space. Peggy Whitson, 57, is also the oldest female astronaut in the history of space exploration, was the first female International Space Station commander, and holds the record for number of spacewalks by a woman. The biochemist is completing a mission at the International Space Station that began in November 2016, covering 122.2 million miles (196.7 million kilometers) and 4,623 orbits of Earth. She and crewmates Jack Fischer of NASA and Fyodor Yurchikhin of Russian space agency Roscosmos were expected to land in Kazakhstan at 9:22 pm (0122 GMT Sunday) in a Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft. Upon her return, Whitson will have racked up 665 days in space in her career, more than any other American astronaut. She is eighth on the all-time space endurance list, NASA said. After earning a doctorate in biochemistry in 1985, Whitson worked as a NASA scientist for seven years before starting as an astronaut in 1997. On this most recent mission, Whitson conducted experiments with human stem cells, blood samples and grew several crops of Chinese cabbage, according to posts on her Facebook page. “The best part, was that after we harvested for the science, we got to eat the rest!” she said of her greens. In an interview before departing the space station, Whitson said she was looking forward to flush toilets (“Trust me, you do not want to know the details”) and pizza. But, “I will miss seeing the enchantingly peaceful limb of our Earth from this vantage point. Until the end of my days, my eyes will search the horizon to see that curve,” she said, according to a transcript of the interview posted on the NASA website.