NASA is losing a prominent member of its astronaut program. Legendary space explorer Dr. Peggy Whitson will be leaving the space agency.
Her Retirement Announcement
Friday, June 15, marked the final day that the 58-year-old was a NASA employee. In a press release, NASA revealed that Dr. Whitson first joined the space agency in 1986 after she earned a doctorate in biochemistry from Rice University a year prior. She first entered the space agency as a research associate at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
During the early stages of her career, Dr. Whitson became an essential asset to NASA as she worked as a scientist for the Shuttle-Mir Program. She also served as a co-chair for the Science Working Group. This was a collaboration between the United States and Russia. After her work with the space agency, she was admitted into the astronaut corps program in 1996.
Dr. Whitson In Space
For 22 years, Dr. Whitson broke numerous records at the space agency. She took part in three long missions to the International Space Station. In 2002, she took part in the Expedition 5 mission and spent 184 days in space. Five years later, Dr. Whitson returned to the space station where she became the very first woman to become the space station's commander. During her 192 days visit, Dr. Whiston participated in five spacewalks.
From 2009 to 2012, Dr. Whitson became the first woman and non-military personnel to lead NASA's astronaut corps. Her final mission to the International Space Station spanned from November 2016 to September 2017, where she once again became the station's commanding officer. Dr. Whitson also set the record for the most time spent in space by a United States astronaut at 665 days.
"Peggy Whitson is a testament to the American spirit. Her determination, strength of mind, character, and dedication to science, exploration, and discovery are an inspiration to NASA and America. We owe her a great debt for her service, and she will be missed. We thank her for her service to our agency and country," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement.
Women In Space
The U.S. Postal Service honored the late Dr. Sally Ride with a "Forever" stamp. Dr. Ride was the very first American woman to enter space. Artist Paul Salmon painted a portrait of Ride in her baby blue NASA uniform. A launched NASA rocket was in the background that showcased the astronaut's confidence, positivity, and passion for space travel.
When Dr. Ride joined NASA in 1978, she was a part of the space agency's first all-female astronaut class. It was also noted that the organization assumed incorrectly that the women wanted to wear makeup in space. They created a kit that included eyeliner, blush, and lipstick.