Space superwoman returning to Earth with records galore

Astronaut Peggy Whitson works during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Jan. 6, 2017. (NASA via AP)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Astronaut Peggy Whitson is closing out a space streak unmatched by any other American.

The world’s most experienced spacewoman is due back on Earth this weekend following 9 ½ months at the International Space Station. Counting all her flights, she will have logged 665 days in space — the equivalent of more than 1 ½ years.

First stop Saturday night is Kazakhstan as usual for a Russian Soyuz capsule touchdown, then a brief detour to Germany before heading home to storm-crippled Houston.

During her third and latest mission, which began last November, the 57-year-old biochemist became the oldest woman in space. She performed her 10th spacewalk, more than any other woman. And she became the first woman to command the space station twice.

FILE – In this Wednesday, Oct 10, 2007 file photo, U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson, center, commander of the 16th mission for the International Space Station, smiles just before the launch of the Russian Soyuz rocket at the Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. Whitson, who was the first woman to command the station, was handed a symbolic Kazakh whip to manage the crew. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)

On the eve of her landing, Whitson said she’s craving pizza — and flush toilets. “Trust me, you don’t want to know the details,” she said via email in response to questions from The Associated Press. A formal news conference was canceled earlier in the week because of the storm, so email responses were the next-best thing.

She said her home in Houston is fine, but so many friends and co-workers were not as fortunate. Johnson Space Center in Houston remains closed until Tuesday except for essential personnel, such as those staffing Mission Control for the space station. She said the team was sleeping on cots at the space center at one point.

“Any trepidations I might have about returning in the aftermath of a hurricane are entirely eclipsed by the all those folks keeping our mission going,” she said.

Most of the flight went by quickly, she noted, although the last week has seemed to drag by.

“Once the switch is thrown to go home, time seems to move a lot slower,” she wrote.

Whitson said she will “hugely miss the freedom of floating and moving with the lightest of touch, especially those first few days after my return when gravity will especially SUCK.” She also will miss “the ability to ‘go for a walk’ in a spaceship built for one,” a reference to her spacesuit, and seeing “the enchantingly peaceful limb of our Earth” from on high.

“Any trepidations I might have about returning in the aftermath of a hurricane are entirely eclipsed by the all those folks keeping our mission going,” she said.

Most of the flight went by quickly, she noted, although the last week has seemed to drag by.

“Once the switch is thrown to go home, time seems to move a lot slower,” she wrote.

Whitson said she will “hugely miss the freedom of floating and moving with the lightest of touch, especially those first few days after my return when gravity will especially SUCK.” She also will miss “the ability to ‘go for a walk’ in a spaceship built for one,” a reference to her spacesuit, and seeing “the enchantingly peaceful limb of our Earth” from on high.

Last month, Whitson posted a photo of herself on Twitter, “soaking up some sunset time” in the space station’s observation deck. “638 days in space and the view is still amazing!” she tweeted.

After landing back on Earth in Kazakhstan (where it will be Sunday), Whitson and Fischer won’t be flying straight back to Houston on a NASA plane. The storm delayed NASA’s plane from getting there in time to bring the two back right away, said flight director Zeb Scoville. They will meet up with the plane in Cologne, astronaut headquarters for the European Space Agency. A Sunday night arrival in Houston is expected.

What’s next for Whitson? “I am not sure what the future holds for me personally, but I envision myself continuing to work on spaceflight programs,” she wrote. She also plans on “paying forward some of the advice and mentoring that I received on my journey.”

Station officials would like nothing better. “She needs to be our blueprint,” said Dan Hartman, the station’s deputy program manager.

In this Dec. 8, 2016 photo made available by NASA, astronaut Peggy Whitson floats through a tangle of cables inside the Columbus module aboard the International Space Station. Whitson was operating the Fluids System Servicer to refill coolant loops in multiple modules on the U.S. segment of the station. (NASA via AP)

 

STORIES OTHERS ARE CLICKING ON –

>> BACK TO TOP STORIES

WFLA.com provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s