Astronaut Peggy Whitson smashes another space record

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Amy Swales
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We waxed lyrical about Peggy Whitson when she made headlines last month for logging the most hours spacewalking of any female astronaut.

And now, the newly nicknamed Space Ninja has broken yet another record – spending more days in space than any astronaut, male or female.

According to Nasa, Whitson – currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS) – smashed through the record for most cumulative time living in space at 1.27am EDT (6.30am in the UK) on 24 April. She powered past that of astronaut Jeff Williams, who logged 534 days, two hours and 48 minutes over four spaceflights.

At the end of March, Whitson – who is on her third trip – simultaneously broke the record for most spacewalks by a woman and the most hours by floating out for her eighth walk, which saw her clock just over 53 hours in total.

And it’s far from her first record: in 2007, she became the first woman to command ISS (and casually clocked up a second time in charge when Nasa astronaut Shane Kimbrough turned the station over to her earlier this month). This trip also saw her set the record for being the oldest woman in space – she turned 57 in February.

During Whitson’s time in space, Donald Trump has been inaugurated, thus her presidential call of congratulations was from the notorious lover of science, who asked her about her achievements.

Dr Whitson told him: “It's actually a huge honour to break a record like this but it's an honour for me to be representing all the folks at Nasa who make the space flight possible, who make me setting this record feasible […] I'm so proud of the team.”

And discussing the challenges of space travel – in particular the effects of deep space on the human body ahead of planned Mars missions – she revealed that water is so precious they’ve been looking into other, erm, “drinkables”.

“Right now we're taking solar power, which we collect and are using it to break apart water into oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen we breath. We use the hydrogen, combine it back with the CO2 that we take out of the air and make more water.

“But water is such a precious resource up here that we are also cleaning up our urine and making it drinkable – and it's really not as bad as it sounds.”

Whitson, from Iowa, first went into space in 2002, and now tweets about her incredible life to her 84,000 followers under the handle @astropeggy.

Though she was meant to be returning to Earth in May, on 5 April she tweeted that she would be in space “longer than expected” – now scheduled for a September return, bringing her time in space to 650 days.



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Amy Swales

Amy Swales is a freelance writer who likes to eat, drink and talk about her dog. She will continue to plunder her own life and the lives of her loved ones for material in the name of comedy, catharsis and getting pictures of her dog on the internet.