U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson, who has spent more time in space than any other American, retired Friday.
During her career, Whitson logged 665 days in space over three missions, the equivalent of about one year and 10 months outside the Earth’s atmosphere.
Whitson was also the first woman to command the International Space Station, holding the position twice, and the oldest woman ever to fly in space.
“It’s been the greatest honor to live out my lifelong dream of being a @NASA Astronaut,” Whitson wrote on Twitter. She thanked “all who have supported me along the way” and said “my journey at NASA has been out of this world!”
Whitson, 58, is a biochemist who grew up in Iowa. She joined NASA as a researcher in 1986 and became an astronaut in 1996. Whitson completed her last spaceflight in September 2017, after spending close to 10 months in space.
During that mission, Whitson and the other crew members aboard the space station pursued hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science.
Only Russian male astronauts have spent more time in space than Whitson. The world record belongs to Russia’s Gennady Padalka, who spent 879 days in space.
While not in space, Whitson also broke barriers at NASA operations. She served as chief of the astronaut corps from 2009 to 2012, becoming
both the first woman to hold the position and the first nonmilitary head of the corps.
“Peggy Whitson is a testament to the American spirit,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement Friday. “Her determination, strength of mind, character, and dedication to science, exploration and discovery are an inspiration to NASA and America.”