Peggy Whitson: To infinity and beyond

This farmers' daughter from Iowa wasn't afraid to look up at the night sky and dream... 🌙⭐

Peggy Whitson went on to become one of the most successful - and respected - astronauts of all time. 👩‍🚀

One giant leap for womankind...

You might be surprised to learn that nearly 90% of all astronauts have been men. 👨‍🚀

However, the astronomical achievements of inspirational women such as Peggy Whitson (USA) are becoming more and more common. 

Between 2002 and 2017, she made 10 spacewalks around the International Space Station (ISS). That’s the most spacewalks by a female ever. 

Peggy is an icon for young females everywhere that dream of touching the clouds – and beyond. 🚀


Peggy Whitson in the Cupola module of the International Space Station, looking down on Earth

The sky is NOT the limit

Peggy Whitson was born on 9 Feb 1960 in Mount Ayr, Iowa, USA.

Her parents were farmers, but Peggy had no plans of following in their footsteps.

Peggy’s dreams were out of this world – literally! 🪐🌠

The idea of being an astronaut was planted into Peggy’s mind on 20 Jul 1969, when she – along with millions of other kids - tuned into the TV to watch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (both USA) become the first people on the Moon. 🌙

Peggy knew her dream could become a reality when NASA’s first female astronauts started training in 1978. 

Space was not just for men anymore. 



first-class-female-astronauts-1978-l-rShannon-W.-Lucid,-Margaret-Rhea-Seddon,-Kathryn-D.-Sullivan,-Judith-A.-Resnik,-Anna-L.-Fisher,-and-Sally-K.-RideNASA's first class of female astronauts were recruited in 1978: (left to right) Shannon Lucid, Margaret Seddon, Kathryn Sullivan, Judith Resnik, Anna-Fisher and Sally Ride
sally-Ride-Becomes-First-American-Woman-in-Space----18-June-1983Sally Ride became the first American woman in space on 18 Jun 1983

I think the biggest advice that I could give people is to actually try and live beyond your dreams by pushing yourself, challenging yourself to do things a little bit outside of your comfort zone

- Peggy Whitson

Long road to the launchpad

• After studying biochemistry at university and graduating in 1985, Peggy joined NASA as a research associate.👩‍💻

• However, her applications to join NASA’s astronaut programme were rejected for 10 long years. 

• Peggy never gave up hope though and kept trying. Eventually, in 1996, she was finally accepted to work on board the ISS

• She began her training in August the same year. Her childhood dream was about to come true. ✨👧

    Taking off

    Peggy first flew to the ISS on 5 Jun 2002 with the Expedition 5 crew. The mission took 3 years to prepare for! 🚀

    Peggy conducted experiments into microgravity and human life sciences, as well as making her very first spacewalk. 👩‍🔬

    Microgravity is what makes stuff appear to be weightless inside the space station. 

    “When I first flew in space we were still pretty much assembling the space station, so the majority of our time was spent on that.”

    - Peggy Whitson

    Peggy takes command

    Continuing her meteoric rise through NASA’s ranks, she flew into space for the second time as part of Expedition 16 on 10 Oct 2007. 

    This time, she had the added honour – and responsibility – of becoming the first female commander of the ISS👩‍🚀😎

    Peggy spent six months on this mission, expanding the ISS and making five more spacewalks to work on the ship. 

    Her longest-ever spacewalk lasted for more than 8 hours! 😵

    During that time she had to complete complex tasks and move herself along the rails on the outside of the ISS

    It’s a bit like completing tasks in Among Us. Peggy is lucky there were no impostors on board! 😱😄

    The flight back to Earth, on 19 Apr 2008, was a very bumpy ride. It almost ended in a crash landing, but everyone made it home safely. 


    Peggy on a spacewalk

    Peggy's final missions

    By 2009, Peggy had become chief of the Astronaut Corps, organizing support for ISS crews. She was the first woman ever to hold that role. 🙋‍♀️

    It would be seven whole years before she returned to the ISS. When she rocketed away again on 17 Nov 2016, she became the oldest female astronaut ever, aged 56 years 282 days

    Peggy racked up another four spacewalks, stepping out into the starry sky each time to make repairs to the the ISS🔧

     On 23 May 2017, during the Expedition 52 mission, she made her 10th spacewalk, which remains the most spacewalks by a female to this day. 👩‍🚀🥇

    Unsurprisingly, Peggy also has the most accumulated time on spacewalks by a female. She spent 60 hr 21 min on spacewalks for the ISS altogether.

    Perhaps there’s a young girl out there today who will break this record in the future…


    The Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft lands near Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on 3 Sep 2017, bringing Expedition 52 - Peggy's final mission - to an end

    The next generation

    The 289 days 5 hr 1 min Peggy spent in space on her final mission was also the longest continuous time in space for a female astronaut.

    That record was subsequently broken by Christina Koch (USA), who has now racked up a duration of 328 days 13 hr 58 min. That's nearly a whole year! 😲

    Christina (pictured left) was mentored by Peggy, who believes it's important to help the next generation of young astronauts to keep breaking records. 🚀😃

    I honestly do think that it is critical that we are continuously breaking records, because that represents us moving forward in exploration

    - Peggy Whitson

     Peggy Whitson appears in Guinness World Records 2022 as part of our Hall of Fame.

    Find out more about GWR 2022