Six-hundred sixty-five days is a long time. If you started the clock today, it would be 2022 by the time it finished. If you just started seventh-grade, you’d be weeks away from high school by then. Your crawling baby brother would have learned to run and jump.
The U.S. record for the most time spent in outer space is 665 days, and it’s held by Iowan and astronaut Peggy Whitson.
Whitson has been on 10 spacewalks, according to NASA, and her longest non-stop stretch in space was 337 days — the most for any American woman when she completed it.
For her, outer space isn’t a faraway place.
“I’ve been there long enough that it’s my second home,” she told me in 2018.
Whitson grew up on a farm in Beaconsfield, one of the smallest towns in Iowa. That’s where she developed the work ethic — working hard no matter what — that she credits with propelling her into her career as an astronaut.
“Even if my job for the day is cleaning the vents or fixing the toilet, it still feels good to be a part of the space program and advancing exploration,” she said.
Speaking of toilets, she told me the No. 1 question kids ask her when she visits schools is how she goes to the bathroom in space. The answer? Astronauts “rely on suction, good aim and lots of wet wipes,” she said.
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Whitson often visits schools in the Midwest to talk about how she became the first woman to command the International Space Station. She had to push herself, taking on challenges even when she was a little scared.
She hopes her story can inspire other Iowa kids to live their dreams.
“I hope they see that dreams are possible,” she said. “I hope with my story they understand also that you have to work for those dreams to make them happen.”