NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fisher along with Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin safely landed in Kazakhstan last Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017. In total, Whitson spent 665 days in space.

Peggy Whitson

Whitson holds the record for the longest American astronaut to stay in space. Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka still holds the world record of spending 878 days in orbit.

The 57-year-old astronaut is also the oldest female astronaut to reach the International Space Station (ISS). Despite her age, NASA had proven her competence as an astronaut. After Expedition 5, she was asked to fill in for a crew member vacancy by the Russians.

Russia trimmed down their ISS crew from three to two, extending Whitson's duty for another nine months.

Whitson’s achievements

Whitson is a biochemist. In an interview, she said that this is the most “gratifying” job she’s ever had. But the lady astronaut is not an average space woman. Aside from performing scientific experiments on the ISS, she served as the commander of the station. She also performed dangerous duties such as spacewalks to repair and replace some parts outside the space station. Because of this, she earned another world record as the female astronaut with the most number of spacewalks completed.

Whitson said that she started dreaming of becoming an astronaut during the Apollo 11 mission. Today, she wanted to be an inspiration to many, especially the women and children to pursue their dreams and break their own records.

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Soyuz rocket transporting astronauts

Today, only the Soyuz rocket is capable of transporting crew from Earth to the ISS, and vice versa ever since NASA’s Space Shuttle retired. NASA is hoping that one day there will be a U.S.-made capsule that can help send astronauts to the ISS and beyond. Both SpaceX and Boeing are now working on their own transporters for use in future deep space missions.

Sea landing is ideal since the water serves as a cushion against the impact. However, last Saturday's landing happened to end up on solid ground. A parachute was seen attached to the capsule and to protect the astronauts from the impact; the thrusters were fired to help slow down the spacecraft's descent. Although the impact still looked pretty strong when viewed from afar, the astronauts were safe and were retrieved after the successful landing.

According to Whitson, she’s very excited to see her friends and family. Aside from that, she said that she wanted to cook and eat real food. She was deprived for a very long time since they eat very different food in space.