Government

Iowa lawmakers honor astronaut Peggy Whitson

Mount Ayr native has spent 665 days in space

Peggy Whitson, the Iowa native who has spent more days in space than any American, is honored Thursday by the Iowa House at the Capitol in Des Moines. (Photo courtesy Iowa House Republicans)
Peggy Whitson, the Iowa native who has spent more days in space than any American, is honored Thursday by the Iowa House at the Capitol in Des Moines. (Photo courtesy Iowa House Republicans)
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DES MOINES — On the 57th anniversary of the first manned space flight, the Iowa House and Senate honored Iowa native Peggy Whitson and her record-breaking accomplishments as an astronaut.

Whitson, 58, a Mount Ayr native, spent over 289 days in orbit on her most recent mission.

Overall, Whitson, nicknamed Space Ninja, has spent 665 days in space during her three missions aboard the International Space Station — more time living and working in space than any other American or any woman worldwide.

Whitson, according to House Joint Resolution 112, initially was inspired to be an astronaut when she was 9 and watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin take their first steps on the moon.

After graduating with degrees in biology and chemistry from Iowa Wesleyan College in 1981 and earning a doctorate in biochemistry from Rice University in 1985, she applied to NASA five times over the course of 10 years before being selected for astronaut training.

Whitson thanked the lawmakers for the “fantastic honor ... it’s very special. I never forget my Iowa roots” and the example set by her parents — “the hardest working people I know.”

When people ask what made her successful, Whitson tells them “learning the work ethic of a farmer was a key to that.”

“Being from Iowa has been a fantastic experience for me and one I’m very proud of,” Whitson said.

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Whitson will receive the Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award in ceremonies Friday night in Des Moines.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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