Astronaut Peggy Whitson, who has spent a NASA-record 665 total days in space and was the first female commander of the International Space Station (ISS), recently spoke to Buzzfeed about her career and her time in orbit.
“Nothing really beats going for a walk out in space,” said Whitson, “Going on a space walk is really special, because you’re in a space suit. It’s basically like a little space ship built for one person. It’s protecting me thermally and pressure-wise from the vacuum of space. But what’s most amazing about the space walk is the view.”
“Remember, we’re going at 17,500 miles an hour. Sixteen times around the planet every day. So we’re seeing a sunrise and a sunset about every 45 minutes as we go into the eclipse and come out into the sun. First you see what we call the limb of the earth, and it’s just this thin blue curve of a line, just as the light of the sun is starting to come around the planet. It’s so alien to everything that we’ve grown up with here on Earth.”
Some parts of her daily life on board the space station sound fun and delightful. “Friday nights, we had a little tradition where we’d do dinner and a movie,” Whitson shared, “Everybody was kind of into a science theme, so we watched Passengers, and Life – lots of science fiction movies.”
Other parts of her routine sound … less enjoyable. “We exercise about two-and-a-half hours a day,” Whitson said, “and that’s in order to maintain our muscle strength.” As someone who can barely manage her half hour of exercise per day, I do not like the sound of that.
Whitson also spoke specifically about her experiences as a woman in space. Whitson was the first female commander of the ISS, heading up Expedition 51. In addition, she set the record as the oldest woman to go to space. In her time as an astronaut, she got to work with a number of other women, and at one point during her tenure as commander, the shuttle that docked to the ISS was also commanded by a woman, Pamela Melroy.
“I wasn’t the first female that happened to fly in space,” Whitson said, “and I’ve had lots of role models along the way to help and guide me, and most importantly, make me believe it’s possible.”
(Via Buzzfeed News; featured image: screengrab)
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