As the first woman in command of the International Space Station, NASA's Dr. Peggy Whitson is already a proven pioneer. Last month, Whitson set the record for most spacewalks by a female astronaut and later this month she will set yet another record for most cumulative time spent space by any US astronaut. Now, thanks to an agreement with the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Whitson will extend her lead even further and stay in orbit for another three months.
Whitson was scheduled to return to Earth when Expedition 51 ends in June, but Roscosmos is reducing their crew to only two cosmonauts for Expedition 52 so Whitson will stay on board to ensure the space station has a full crew of six through the September.
"This is great news," Whitson said. "I love being up here. Living and working aboard the space station is where I feel like I make the greatest contribution, so I am constantly trying to squeeze every drop out of my time here. Having three more months to squeeze is just what I would wish for."
Before she launched on her current mission last November, Whitson had already racked up 377 days in space. On April 9, she will resume command of the space station, making her the first female to hold that position twice. On April 24, she will break NASA astronaut Jeff Williams' 534-day record, but she'll have another another five months, give or take a few days, to add to her record by the time she hitches a ride home on a Soyuz vehicle in September.