It's official. Peggy Whitson holds the standing record for the longest amount of time spent in space, or as her crewmates better put it, the "New U.S. High-Time Space Ninja."
As of April 24, 2017, Whitson has spent 534 days, 2 hours, 49 minutes and counting. NASA noted that she may break this record herself, as her stay at the International Space Station was extended from March to September for more onboard experimentation.
Whitson's Achievements In Space
"It's actually a huge honor to break a record like this ... it's an honor for me, basically to be representing all the folks at NASA who make space flight possible and who make me setting this record feasible," Whitson said at a recent Earth-to-space phone call with President Donald Trump.
This is just the latest in a string of impressive records Whitson has set in space — including being the first female to command the space station (2008), the first female to command it twice (2017), the oldest woman to complete a spacewalk, and most spacewalks by a female astronaut.
— Peggy Whitson (@AstroPeggy) April 24, 2017
Women Of NASA
Women have always been an integral part of NASA. In the past, females at the federal space agency typically worked as administrative officials, medical personnel, mathematicians, and engineers — not in space.
The early space programs were exclusive to men, partly due to a 1958 policy that required all astronauts to be military test pilots — a qualification women can't comply with because the military didn't accept females at the time.
First Female Astronauts
In 1963, Soviet Union sent Valentina Tereshkova, who holds the title for the first woman in space.
It wasn't until 20 years later after that when women in the United States finally had their chance at exploring space.
In January 1978, NASA selected its first class of female astronauts, which consisted of six women namely Shannon Lucid, Margaret Rhea Seddon, Kathryn Sullivan, Judith Resnik, Anna Fisher, and Sally Ride.
First American Woman In Space
Ride, who holds a doctorate degree in physics from Stanford University, was the first American woman to fly in space and third overall after Tereshkova and Svetlana Savitskaya.
She entered the orbit in 1983 aboard the space shuttle Challenger. Ride became a catalyst for the space agency to give equal opportunities to women.
According to NASA's website, a total of 58 different women — including cosmonauts, astronauts, payload specialists, and foreign nationals — have flown in space as of May 2015. Of this, 49 women have flown with NASA.