As students on the Graceland University Lamoni campus walk to classes in Resch Science and Technology Hall, they are reminded daily of a former student who once took summer classes on the same campus.
Peggy Whitson’s connection to Graceland goes back decades, but even after finding success as a NASA chief astronaut in more recent years, the Beaconsfield, Iowa, native has returned to campus to speak to students about her experiences and has donated several items that showcase her achievements and experiences through the displays in Resch Hall.
Whitson became the oldest woman to be launched into space Thursday, when the Soyuz rocket she boarded took off from Kazakhstan in Central Asia. While in orbit, she will turn 57 on Feb. 9. A biochemistry researcher with degrees from Iowa Wesleyan College and Rice University, Whitson has logged over 376 days in space prior to Thursday’s blastoff.
She is a woman of several firsts when it comes to the space program. Whitson is ranked 26th on the list of cumulative spacewalk records with a total EVA (extra-vehicular activity) time of 39 hours, 46 minutes. This latest mission will be her third on the International Space Station, where she will conduct scientific investigations, returning to earth in May.