She also claimed the title for most spacewalks by a woman - 10 spacewalks totalling 60 hours and 21 minutes - and set the record for most time spent in space by a USA astronaut, placing eighth on the all-time space endurance list.
Whitson, the 58-year-old NASA astronaut, holds the USA record for most cumulative time in space. Her final mission to the International Space Station spanned from November 2016 to September 2017, where she once again became the station's commanding officer.
Whitson, who grew up on a farm in Beaconsfield in southwest Iowa, graduated from Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant in 1981, adding a doctorate in biochemistry at Rice University in Houston in 1985. "As I reminisce on my many treasured memories, it's safe to say my journey at NASA has been out of this world!" From, 2009 to 2012, she served as chief of the astronaut corps, becoming both the first female and the first non-military astronaut to hold the position. "Along with her record setting career, she leaves behind a legacy of her passion for space".
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine called Whitson an inspiration, citing her determination and dedication to science, exploration and discovery. She made her first trip to the International Space Station in 2008. "We thank her for her service to our agency and country". Also her colleagues said that she showed the true spirit of American women and has always fulfilled all their duties objectively and efficiently. In 2002, she took part in the Expedition 5 mission and spent 184 days in space.
At the time, Whitson was also the world's most experienced female spacewalker, with 10 under her spacesuit belt. Dr. Ride was the very first American woman to enter space.
'Until the end of my days, my eyes will search the horizon to see that curve, ' she said.