Peggy Whitson, Ph.D., America’s most experienced astronaut, served as commander on the Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2), the second all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS). During her record-breaking NASA career, she flew on three long-duration space flights and accumulated 665 days in space (now 675 after the Ax-2 mission), more than any other American astronaut or woman astronaut in the world.
Whitson has over 37 years of space and science experience with NASA, as a consultant and now as director of human spaceflight for Axiom Space. Throughout her career, she has held various positions, including NASA’s chief of the Astronaut Office, two-time commander of the International Space Station, chair of NASA’s Astronaut Selection Board, chief of NASA’s Operations Branch, and deputy division chief for both Medical Sciences and the Astronaut Office, as well as co-chair of the U.S.-Russian Mission Science Working Group.
View her Axiom Space flight suit on display in the Space Center Houston International Space Station (ISS) Gallery.
During her six-month stay aboard the space station, Whitson installed the Mobile Base System, the S1 truss segment and the P1 truss segment, using the Space Station Remote Manipulator System; performed a four hour and 25-minute Orlan spacewalk to install micrometeoroid shielding on the Zvezda Service Module and activated and checked out the Microgravity Sciences Glovebox, a facility class payload rack. She was named the first NASA Science Officer during her stay, and she conducted 21 investigations in human life sciences and microgravity sciences, as well as commercial payloads. Completing her first flight, Whitson logged 184 days, 22 hours and 14 minutes in space.
As commander, Whitson oversaw the first expansion of the station’s living and working space in more than six years. The station and visiting space shuttle crews added the Harmony connecting node, the European Space Agency’s Columbus laboratory, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kibo logistics pressurized module and the Canadian Space Agency’s Dextre robot. Whitson performed five spacewalks to conduct assembly and maintenance tasks outside the complex.
Whitson contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science, welcomed several cargo spacecraft delivering tons of supplies and research experiments, and with her crewmates participated in a combined six spacewalks to perform maintenance and upgrades to the station.
During Ax-2, Whitson became the first female commander of a private space mission, adding to her accomplishment as the first female commander of the ISS, the only woman to serve as ISS commander twice, and the first woman, nonmilitary chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office. Aboard the orbiting laboratory, the four-person, multinational crew conducted extensive research, investigate novel technologies, and engage with audiences around the world as champions of science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics. Their efforts continued laying the groundwork to establish the key capabilities needed to build out and operate Axiom Station, the world’s first commercial space station.
Peggy Whitson wore this flight suit while accomplishing one of many “firsts” in the commercial space industry. In this suit, she became the first female commander of a commercial astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS), known as Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2).
In the same way, NASA trainers and mission control personnel make sure NASA astronauts are prepared and closely monitored during their space missions. Commercial space companies, such as Axiom Space, are training and sending their own astronauts to space, too.
Beyond her accomplishments on Ax-2, Whitson holds the distinction of being the first female to command the ISS twice with the most days in space: 675 days over three NASA long-duration missions and Ax-2.
Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2) was Axiom Space’s second all-private astronaut mission to the ISS and Whitson led the mission.
Aviator John Shoffner of Knoxville, Tennessee, served as pilot. The two mission specialists were Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
During Ax-2, Whitson became the first female commander of a private space mission, adding to her accomplishment as the first female commander of the ISS, the only woman to serve as ISS commander twice, and the first woman, nonmilitary chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office.
See the suit on display in our International Space Station (ISS) Gallery.