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Iowa History Daily: February 9 - Peggy Whitson

Iowa History Daily: On February 9, 1960, the American with the most recorded time in space and former NASA Chief Astronaut Peggy Whitson was born in Mount Ayr. The first female commander of the International Space Station, Whitson’s rise from Ringgold County is truly out of this world.

Growing up on a farm outside of Beaconsfield, Whitson decided to reach for the stars while watching the moon landing on television during 1969. A 1978 graduate of Mount Ayr High School, Whitson went on to study biology and chemistry at Iowa Wesleyan before ultimately obtaining a doctorate in biochemistry from Rice University.

Starting at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in 1989 in Biomedical Operations and Research, the Iowan’s career quickly led to a series of interesting projects and promotions. In 1996, NASA selected Whitson as an astronaut candidate in early 1996. Training followed, and before heading to space Whitson spent time under the sea at the Aquarius underwater laboratory.

NASA first sent Whitson to space as a part of Expedition 5 in 2002, where she spent six months aboard the International Space Station. Also a member of the 2007 Expedition 16, Whitson logged an additional 191 days in space on the mission. Promoted to Chief Astronaut in 2009, NASA recently tabbed Whitson as the commander of the Axiom 2 Mission to the International Space Station during May 2023. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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