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Peggy Whitson


Peggy Whitson

Peggy Whitson

She spent 6 months on the International Space Station and was the Station’s first Science Officer. As part of the Expedition 5 crew, she was in space for over 184 days.

On spending 6 months on the International Space Station:

"I found that many things were different when I left Earth. My tastes, in particular, changed. In space, I really liked peanut butter, but on Earth, I rarely ate it. And on Earth, I enjoyed shrimp cocktail, but in space, it just didn’t taste the same."

On her career as a research biochemist:

"A research biochemist is interested in studying how the body works on a day-to-day basis. We watch for reactions and patterns. One area of interest that I have studied concerns developing a technique to examine blood plasma." Whitson developed a process for separating blood cells from plasma for room temperature storage of samples. This also has medical uses on Earth, and it earned Whitson one of her two patents.

On being named the Space Station’s first science officer:

"It’s like being the leader of a team. I was responsible for making sure all the science got done, and that follow-up work was finished. It was my job to make sure science had a high priority while in space."

On living in zero gravity:

"It’s like floating in water, with no breathing concerns. All orientations are the same—up is the same as down. However, there are no water molecules to push against to propel yourself, so moving required a new set of skills."

On working on a hobby in space:

"I love gardening, especially taking care of flowers. I think I got that from my father, who is a farmer. In space, I worked on a soybean experiment, taking seeds, growing them, harvesting new seeds, and seeing if the genes changed in anyway. It was nice to have this unique connection to my dad—we both farmed soybeans, even though my farm was smaller and 200 miles above the Earth."

Biographical Data:

Hometown: Beaconsfield, Iowa
Born: February 9, 1960
Education: Bachelor of science in biology and chemistry from Iowa Wesleyan College, and a doctorate in biochemistry from Rice University.
Spaceflight Experience: Six months aboard the International Space Station Expedition 5; performed a 4-hour space walk to install parts of the Space Station structures; first NASA Science Officer, conducting 21 investigations.

For more information about Peggy Whitson, visit: NASA’s Johnson Space Center—Astronaut Biographies

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