HOUSTON (KTRK) --A veteran NASA astronaut is just days away from setting a new record in space: total cumulative time spent on orbit.
Peggy Whitson is quietly approaching her 535th day spent in her career in space. On April 24, she will break the record of 534 days, currently held by astronaut Jeff Williams.
"It's actually really special to be part of the team that makes spaceflight happen. There's a lot of folks that make it happen," Whitson said in an exclusive interview with Eyewitness News while aboard the International Space Station.
Whitson's first flight to the ISS was aboard a space shuttle in 2002. She later was the first female commander of the International Space Station.
Now 57 years old, she is a long way from the Iowa farm where she grew up; where she sold chickens to raise money to pay for her pilot's license.
"I always say I got my pilot's license off chicken money. You can pursue and make your dreams come true," she said.
Whitson says her efforts in space amount to a small part of the larger NASA team effort to engineer longer duration missions and study the effects of microgravity on the human body.
"I think we should do it all! I think our species should be exploring beyond this planet, and I think the work we are doing here on board the ISS is going to help us achieve those goals," she said.
Whitson hopes her record will be shattered as well. She finds great satisfaction knowing she is laying the ground work for future astronauts to walk on mars and maybe other planets too.
A Cosmonaut still holds the record for the most amount of time by a human being in space: Gennady Padalka spent 879 days in orbit on five flights.