Life

5 Inspiring Facts About Female Astronaut Peggy Whitson

She's our new hero!

Chances are you haven’t heard of astronaut Peggy Whitson, but her name should be as commonly known as Neil Armstrong’s and Buzz Aldrin’s. Whitson just returned to Earth after spending nearly a year in space (288 days!), and there’s no better time to get to know this American hero. Memorize Whitson’s name, and then check out these five inspiring facts about her amazing life and career.

1. She Holds So Many Records It’s Difficult To List Them All

But let’s try, shall we? Here are some of the titles Whitson’s achievements have earned her: oldest woman in space at age 57; more days in space than any American astronaut of either gender; more days in space than any female astronaut in the world; first woman to command the International Space Station; and most space walks (10!) of any female astronaut.

2. She’s A Biochemist

When Whitson takes flight, the scientists working on the ground know to brace themselves. She sends back so much data that it’s difficult for them to keep up with her. She is so efficient and prolific in her research that she often follows up for more assignments multiple times during a mission.

3. She Always Requests More Missions

One of the reasons Whitson has racked up so much space time (not to mention world records) is because the moment she touches down from one mission, she requests another one. The mission she just returned from was set to end in April, but when a spot opened up on a return capsule, Whitson eagerly accepted the offer to stay in orbit an extra three months.

4. She’s An Accomplished Space Chef

In addition to her groundbreaking scientific work, Whitson finds time to do some culinary experiments in space as well. Her most recent space food innovation? Using freeze-dried tortillas to make an intergalactic apple pie.

5. She Misses Two Things On Earth

Someone who spends so much time in space is bound to miss some things you can’t get up there, right? For Whitson, two things beckon her back down to Earth: real (non-freeze-dried) pizza, and her husband, who works on the ground at Johnson Space Center in Houston. In that order.

Follow Whitson on Twitter for more glimpses into her amazing life!