US Astronaut to Return to Earth Holding US Record for Days in Space

When U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson returns to Earth on Saturday from the International Space Station, she will have spent more time in space than any other American.

Whitson will have logged 665 days in space over three separate missions, the equivalent of about one year and 10 months outside the Earth’s atmosphere.

The world record belongs to Russian Astronaut Gennady Padalka, who spent 879 days in space.

Whitson is scheduled to return to Earth Saturday night in Kazakhstan in a Russian Soyuz capsule. She will then travel to Germany before heading home to Houston, which is still crippled from Hurricane Harvey.

Whitson said in an email to the Associated Press that her home was not damaged in the storm. However, she said the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston was temporarily closed except for essential personnel, such as those staffing Mission Control for the space station mission.

“Any trepidations I might have about returning in the aftermath of a hurricane are entirely eclipsed by the all those folks keeping our mission going,” she said.

Whitson, a biochemist, began her third and latest mission on the International Space Station last November. During the mission, she performed a spacewalk and also become the first woman to command the space station twice.

She and the other crew members aboard the International Space Station also pursued hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science.

At 57, Whitson is the oldest woman to have been in space.

The astronaut has said she is unsure whether this most recent space mission will be her last.

NASA had scheduled a news conference earlier this week with Whitson, to be filmed from the space station, but said it had to be rescheduled after she returns because of the impact of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.

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