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DR. PEGGY ANNETTE WHITSON
Commander International Space Station Expedition XVI, 2007

Expedition XVI.jpg Peggy Whitson.jpg

USA TODAY
October 19, 2007

Missons mark giant leaps for womankind
By Traci Watson, US TODAY

As one female astronaut commands the shuttle Discovery, another will assume the leadership post on the space station. When space shuttle Discovery blasts off as early as Tuesday, the astronaut in the commander's seat will make history — and also represent the likely end of an era.

Commander Pamela Melroy, 46, will be second female shuttle commander. She'll also almost certainly be the last.

No other female astronaut is qualified to lead a shuttle flight, and NASA is unlikely to hire women to follow in Melroy's footsteps before the shuttle retires in 2010.

Still, Melroy's trip represents how far women have come in taking on leadership roles in space. Melroy's arrival in space will mark the first time that two female commanders will orbit the Earth. The other is astronaut Peggy Whitson, who today officially becomes the first female commander of the International Space Station.

The overlap "is just indicative that there are enough women in the program that coincidentally this can happen," Melroy says. "And that is a wonderful thing."

It may be a long time before it happens again. There is no one waiting to follow Melroy, though women account for 19, or 21%, of the 91 astronauts eligible to fly space missions. None of the 19 are pilot-astronauts, the group from which shuttle commanders are chosen.

The space agency plans to hire more astronauts in 2009, but they are unlikely to fly on the shuttle, which will be grounded long before the new recruits' training ends.

Melroy attributes the lack of women on the ladder toward a command to "statistics (that are) very tough." Those chosen by NASA as pilot-astronauts must have spent at least 1,000 hours flying jets, and military test pilots are strongly preferred.

Fewer than two dozen women in the world have those credentials, Melroy says. Fewer than five female pilots graduate each year from the military's test-pilot schools.

NASA officials don't dwell on the lack of women shuttle bosses. The agency prefers to focus on the future, which will offer more — though different — opportunities for female astronauts.

"It would be nice" to have more female shuttle chiefs, says NASA's chief of astronaut selection, Duane Ross, but few women with the right résumés have applied.

Melroy's experience as an Air Force test pilot will come in handy during her mission. The shuttle commander's job includes two of the flying world's most coveted and difficult tasks: landing the shuttle and docking it to the orbiting laboratory 200 miles above Earth.

Melroy jokes that making lunch in orbit for the other astronauts will be one of her main duties. As commander she also has the heavy responsibility of assuring her crew's safety and her mission's success.

Space station commanders don't have to be pilot-astronauts, opening the door to more women, Ross says. So does NASA's decision to focus less on test-pilot experience as it chooses the 2009 astronaut class.

While Melroy can't predict when she might have a successor, station chief Whitson says another woman could take the reins of the lab in two or three years. Whitson says she sought the challenge of directing a station mission but never aspired to be in the history books.

"Being the first female commander is one of those things where I feel lucky to be in the right place at the right time," she says. "It just happened that way."

The day before Whitson launched into space earlier this month aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, she was presented with a gift acknowledging her status: a horsewhip carried as a mark of authority by male Kazakh chieftains.

The whip is "for the men to remember that you are the boss," Sergei Shevchenko, who works with the crews of Russian spaceships, told Whitson.

"I'm hoping that I will not be needing this," said a laughing Whitson, who will oversee a crew of five men. "But just in case!"

Not all Russians are as respectful as Shevchenko. When a reporter asked Whitson a series of questions Tuesday after her arrival at the station, her Russian crewmate chimed in before she could.

"Peggy is a woman, and that's a lot of questions for a woman to answer right away," said cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, who then answered the questions himself. Yurchikhin, the station's outgoing commander, will depart the station Sunday.

The incident was reminiscent of a 1996 episode when U.S. astronaut Shannon Lucid prepared for a stay on the Russian space station Mir. The chief of cosmonaut training, Yuri Glazkov, said Lucid would improve Mir because all women like to clean.

Whitson, like all station residents, will do her share of cleaning, but she also has larger responsibilities. Next Thursday, Melroy is scheduled to link Discovery to the station so the station and shuttle crews can work together on a high-profile assignment: an ambitious effort to expand the orbiting lab, which is roughly half-done.

The two space commanders come from different worlds. Whitson, 47, grew up on a hog farm outside Beaconsfield, Iowa, population 32. She holds a doctorate in biochemistry and has published multiple scientific papers about her research.

Melroy was a military brat who moved constantly as a child and joined the Air Force, rising to colonel. She flew combat missions in Iraq and graduated from the Air Force's exclusive test-pilot school.

Despite their different paths, both were inspired by the Apollo missions as little girls. For a time, Melroy flirted with the idea of being a ballerina. Both women have husbands though no children.

Whitson served her first term on the station in 2002. She was the second of three women, in addition to 35 male residents, to live there, and can leg-press more weight than some of her male colleagues. Melroy, at 5 feet, 4 inches, is tough enough to be called "Pambo" by her NASA colleagues.

Both women have earned the respect of their crews. Melroy's pilot, George Zamka, recalled a crew-bonding exercise that required the astronauts to paddle kayaks. Zamka, a novice kayaker, was flailing in the water when his commander glided by him with perfect form.

"She does a lot of things with grace and elegance," he said.

Astronaut Daniel Tani, who will answer to Whitson on the station, said his station commander has keen engineering skills but is also known for running the margarita machine at NASA parties. Tani will ride to the station as part of Melroy's shuttle crew, making him the butt of jokes that he takes with good humor.

"I've got two women commanders at work, and my life is run by three women at home" said Tani, who is married and has two daughters. "So far I've survived all of it, so maybe I can get through the next couple months."

Photographs by AP/USA TODAY
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, October 11, 2007, Pages 1 & 8

It's back to space for Peggy Whitson, county's astronaut

Commander Peggy Whitson, Ringgold county's favorite daughter astronaut, and Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko of the 16th International Space Station crew were scheduled to be on their way to the International Space Station when this week's Mount Ayr Record-News was being printed Wednesday morning.

The launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan was set to go up about 9:20 a.m. EDT to begin a six-month stay in space.

Whitson will be part of what should be a record-setting stay in space. If all goes as planned she will return at the end of the mission, holding the record for the U.S. woman with the longest time in space and the first woman commander of the International Space Station.

Malenchenko is a space veteran as well as this is his third long term stay in space.

With them on the Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft will be spaceflight participant Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor. He is a Malaysian flying under contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency. He will return to Earth with Expedition 15 crew members, Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineer Oleg Kotov on Sunday, Oct. 21. Expedition 15 launched to the station last April 7.

Whitson's Expedition 16 Soyuz spacecraft was scheduled to dock at the station a little after 10:50 a.m. Friday, Oct. 12.

Crew members will be welcomed by the Expedition 15 crew, including astronaut Clay Anderson, [Page 8] the third Expedition 15 crew member. He launched to the station aboard the STS-117 mission of Atlantis June 8. He joined Expedition 15 in progress and will provide Expedition 16 with an experienced flight engineer for the first few days of its time in the space station.

Whitson, 47, a native of Beaconsfield, is on her second mission to the station. She served as a flight engineer on the Expedition 5 crew, launching June 5, 2002, and returning to Earth Dec. 7, after almost 185 days in space. She holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Rice University in Houston. She began working for NASA as a research biochemist in 1989 and was selected as an astronaut in 1996.

Malenchenko, 45, a Russian Air Force colonel, is making his third long-duration spaceflight. He spent 126 days aboard the Russian space station Mir beginning July 1, 1994, and commanded the two-person station crew on Expedition 7, spending 185 days in space beginning April 26, 2003. He also was a member of the STS-106 crew of Atlantis on an almost-12-day mission to the station beginning Sept. 8, 2000. He is a graduate of the Kharkov Military Aviation School and the Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy.

Anderson, 48, holds a master's degree in aerospace engineering from Iowa State University. He was selected as an astronaut in 1998. This is his first spaceflight.

Astronaut Daniel Tani is scheduled to launch aboard the STS-120 flight of Discovery to replace Anderson as a flight engineer during Expedition 16. Tani, 46, holds a master's degree in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was selected as an astronaut in 1996 and flew on Endeavour's STS-108 mission in December 2001. He will be making his second spaceflight.

The crew returns in the spring.

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Farewell ceremonies for Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, Yuri Malenchenko and Peggy Whitson prior to launch

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, October 18, 2007, Page 1

Whitson arrives as space station post

Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko of the 16th International Space Station crew docked their Soyuz TMA-11 with the orbiting laboratory at 10:50 a.m. EDT Friday to begin a six-month stay aboard.

With them is spaceflight participant Sheikh Msuzaphar Shukor. He is a Malaysian flying under contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency. He will return to earth with Expedition 15 crew members, Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineer Oleg Kotov, Oct. 21. Expedition 15 launched to the station last April 7.

Expedition 16 crew members were welcomed by the Expedition 15 crew, including astronaut Clay Anderson, the third Expedition 15 crew member. He launched to the station aboard the STS-117 mission of Atlantis June 8. He joined Expedition 15 in progress and will provide Expedition 16 with an experienced flight engineer for the first few days of its increment.

Astronaut Daniel Tani is scheduled to launch aboard the STS-120 flight of Discovery to replace Anderson as a flight engineer during Expedition 16. Tani, 46, will be making his second spaceflight.

Two Expedition 17 crew members are expected to arrive next spring to replace Whitson and Malenchenko.

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, October 25, 2007, Pages 1 & 9

Watching launch special up close or from distance
Whitsons view daughter, sister's space shot

By Alan Smith

When astronaut Peggy Whitson lifted off into space on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that would take her to the International Space Station for her second trip, her Ringgold county family watched from different vantage points than on her first trip.

Instead of traveling on the space shuttle in a flight from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Whitson traveled this time in a much smaller Soyuz craft launching from the Russian launch site in Baikonur, Kazakstan.

On hand to watch the spectacular night-time launch in Kazakstan were her brother, Hugh, and his wife Jackie, of Mount Ayr. Watching from Beaconsfield on the NASA television network were her parents Keith and Beth Whitson.

Traveling half-way around the world to send Whitson off -- along with her husband, Clarence and a handful of friends -- was a once-in-a-lifetime indescribable experience Jackie Whitson said in recounting the trip she and Hugh made to see the launch that would start her sister-in-law's journey to many more places in the space flight record book.

Watching from back home

Meanwhile, back at home watching the preflight preparations and launch was much different than being there for Peggy's parents.

"I think I was more emotional sitting here at home watching the launch than I was when we were on site," Beth Whitson said. "They kept us so busy when we were there that there wasn't time to dwell on what was actually happening."

Their daughter had called the day before and talked to them and called one she had docked at the International Space Station as well.

"It's a big thrill seeing her be able to do what she has wanted to do so badly most of her life" Beth Whitson said.

Most of the time the Whitsons don't think about having a famous daughter. When she comes home she's just Peggy, her mother said.

"When we hear all the people around the world talk about all of her accomplishments it's amazing," Beth Whitson said.

The Whitsons have talked with their daughter a couple of times since that first call and keep in touch by email as well.

"It's a little different this time," Beth Whitson said. "We are getting so much more information on the computer than we did the first time. We are going to have a whole book of information by the time her six months in space are completed.

And what advice does her father Keith keep giving her?

"Have a good time" is his admonition.

Once Whitson gets into full swing on her duties the Whitsons back know that there will be fewer telephone calls. The calls can only be made when the satellite is at the right position, and that isn't always a time when Peggy has a break from her duties.

Traveling to see it first-hand

For Hugh and Jackie Whitson, the trip to see Peggy off on her second trip to the International Space Station was 10 days of new experiences.

The Whitsons flew on a non-stop flight from Atlanta to Moscow, where they spent three days. Moscow is a city which may have reached 20 million in population by now -- no one knows for sure -- and it is teaming with people.

While in Moscow they saw the sights such as Red Square, St. Basil Cathedral and the Kremlin, where they visited the Armory to see some of the centuries-old treasures of Russia.

While there they also traveled on the Metro system, which has also doubled as a bomb shelter for the citizens of Moscow, and went to the equivalent of NASA's mission control in Moscow.

Traffic is horrific as the economy has grown quickly since the breakup of the Soviet Union and more and more people can afford cars to drive on infrastructure designed for more mass transit.

It took the Whitsons three hours to travel the 20 to 30 miles from the airport to their hotel.

In the city people live in apartments in huge buildings with bleak exteriors. "We were told that on the inside they were nice however," Jackie said.

Many families have a spot in the country which they travel to on the weekends where they have a plot of ground and can do some gardening that there is not room for in the crowded cities.

"You see cars (there are few pickups) with lumber and other materials strapped to them for the homes, cabins or shacks they have at their summer places," Jackie said.

There was construction everywhere -- on the steam system that pipes heat to buildings all over the [Page 9] city to provide heat - on the roads, parking ramps and buildings.

A NASA astronaut helped them around the city and guides took them to the sites, sharing interesting side bars as well as the information about the interesting things they were seeing.

On October 7, the Whitsons flew to the space launching area in Kazakstan where the launch would actually take place. One of the first things they did when they got to the launch area was to get a chance to visit with their favorite astronaut.

They were on site for three days before the Wednesday launch and had the opportunity to talk with Whitson for a couple of hours each day as the time for the launch drew closer.

As the rocket was prepared to send Whitson, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and Malaysian orthopedic surgeon Sheikh Muszaphar, the Whitsons got to see it rolled out to the place it would be launched from during the preparation days.

Peggy Whitson doesn't say much about her own accomplishments so it was interesting for Hugh and Jackie to hear just how important she has been to the space program from some of the other NASA astronauts they visited with during the lead up to the launch. Hugh and Jackie heard information about how challenging the mission will be. A good deal of construction on the International Space station will be done while her crew is there.

On one of the two critical EVAs (space walks) to be done during the mission, Peggy Whitson will be helping to change over some equipment that has been in place for five years.

How well the old bolts will come off and then how well the piece will line up with bolts at a new site on the Space Station will be a big challenge. The two astronauts doing the EVA will move it without the use of the Canadian robotic arm, the Whitsons found out.

As they visited with Peggy and the time to launch drew closer, she got more and more ready to roll. "The closer we got to Wednesday's launch, the more she lit up," Jackie remembers. "It was great to have the time to spend with her in those days."

At the Russian launch site, a prescribed series of activities are held to prepare for sending a crew into space.

"It's like they are superstitious," Jackie Whitson said.

So on the night before the launch, the same Russian movie is shown to the launch crews as has been shown many times before.

Hugh and Jackie watched the movie, in Russian with no English subtitles, and said they go the gist of the story. Peggy was watching the movie from a glassed in area behind them.

The day of the launch, the Whitsons got to go to the launch site and watch as Peggy's space suit was tested for leaks and other preparations were made.

Whitson's husband Clarence, Yuri Malenchenko's wife and Dr. Muszaphar's parents all said their goodbyes admist a large group of military brass and dignitaries.

The actual launch was held the next evening. It was unusual for an evening launch, and seeing the Soyuz rocket lift off in the evening was even more spectacular than a day launch, Jackie Whitson noted.

One of the differences from the earlier launch they watched in Florida was the closeness to the rocket.

Because the space shuttle has to create so much more life than the much smaller Soyuz craft, spectators are about three miles away in Florida. In Kazakstan, the Whitsons were just one kilometer away from the launch.

The number of armed guards and police dogs that were part of the security was another big difference. "It was a little intimidating at times but we always had people with us to help us through security," Whitson said.

The launch itself was beautiful, "picture perfect."

"Some of the people there who had seen many launches said they had not seen a more spectacular launch," Jackie Whitson shared.

Another difference in the launch was that at the Florida site, NASA staff are all in areas away from the family.

At the Kazakstan launch, the NASA people were all around the family and guests.

"We got to know what they were learning and talking about at the same time they did," Jackie Whitson said.

Right after the successful launch, the Whitsons toured a museum at the site. Then they joined other guests and dignitaries in a traditional big celebration banquet.

"It was huge and the likes of us were there among all those dignitaries," Whitson noted.

Several other friends made the trip along with Peggy's cousin and cousin's daughter, who came over just in time for the launch.

"The size of the space shuttle compared with the Soyuz capsule was very dramatic," she said.

"I don't think you could put three people the size of Hugh in that capsule and you spend a couple of days packed into the closed quarters on the way to the space station," she noted.

That's why there is a height restriction for the Russian cosmonauts because of the limited space in the Soyuz capsule they fly in most often.

The Whitsons spent another day in Baikonur, which was built especially to support the launch facilities.

Russia had a 50-year lease on the space facilities from Kazakstan after the Soviet Union disbanded and Kazakstan became a separate country.

While they had translators assigned to help them, there were many more English speakers in Russia than in Kazaskastan, she said.

The people, who don't look Russian, were very aware that the visitors were there for the launch and were very kind.

The Whitsons picked up a few Russian words like "thank you," "yes" and "no" but Jackie said she wouldn't want to venture out on the trip without the NASA personnel who took such good care of them.

The Whitsons next flew back to Moscow, where they traveled to Star City, the training facilities where Peggy spent many months training for the mission to the space station, where she became the first woman commander in history.

After a very interesting tour of the facilities, the Whitsons left the next morning for the flight back to the United States.

Until Peggy reached the International Space Station, she could not communicate directly with the family.

Beth Whitson got a call Saturday from Peggy to tell her all was well. And Peggy wanted to visit with her nephew Tyler Whitson, who had been a homecoming king candidate and played in the homecoming win over Central Decatur.

Catching up with Hugh has been a bigger problem. Peggy has called a couple of times from space but keeps missing the farmer in the midst of harvest season.

How would Hugh and Jackie describe their trip? "It was indescribable, a once-in-a-lifetime trip," Jackie said.

And that was just for the family who stayed on the ground.

Photographs courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, November 22, 2007, Pages 1 & 7

Whitson space walks to hook up Harmony

While folks back on the ground in Iowa were preparing for Thanksgiving Tuesday, astronaut Peggy Whitson was doing one of the things she most enjoys while on the station - taking the second of three extra vehicular activity space walks that are planned for her during her six-month stay on the International Space Station.

A six-hour, 40-minute space walk by International Space Station commander Peggy Whitson and flight engineer Dan Tani was to begin the external outfitting of the Harmony Node in its new position in front of the U.S. laboratory Destiny.

The installation of NASA's Harmony Node increases the living and working space inside the station to approximately 18,000 cubic feet. It also allows the addition of international laboratories from Europe and Japan to the station.

Harmony provides a passageway between three station science experiment facilities: The U.S. Destiny Laboratory, the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module and the European Columbus Laboratory.

The Harmony section of the space station is about 24-feet long and 14.5 feet in diameter and weighs about 31,500 pounds.

The European Columbus laboratory and the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module are to be brought up to the space station while Whitson commands a mission during one of the major expansions of the ISS.

The spacewalk was being done to do the final hook up of this Harmony section of the space station so it can be used and be ready for the arrival of the other major sections [Page 7] of the station.

The spacewalk was scheduled to begin at 6 a.m. EST Tuesday from the U.S. airlock Quest. Whitson, the lead spacewalker, was wearing a suit with the red stripes while Tani was in the suit with a barber-pole stripes.

After leaving the airlock and setting up tools and equipment, Whitson removed, vented and stowed an ammonia jumper, part of a temporary cooling loop. Removing it allows connection of the hookup of the permanent ammonia cooling loop on a fluid tray on the station's exterior.

Tani meanwhile retrieved a bag of tools left outside the station during the Nov. 9 spacewalk by Whitson and flight engineer Yuri Malenchenko. Then he removed two fluid caps to prepare for connection of that permanent cooling loop.

Much of the spacewalk was devoted to work with Harmony's Loop A fluid tray. That 300-pound, 18.5-foot tray was moved from its temporary position on the SO truss, at the corner of the station's main truss, to Harmony, atop the starboard avionics tray.

Tani joined Whitson at SO. They released the fluid tray and then moved it to Harmony. They use a kind of relay technique, one moving ahead and attaching tethers to be ready to receive the tray, then the other moving father forward to take the next handoff.

Once they reached the installation point they bolted down the tray, then hooked up its six fluid line connections, two at SO, two at the tray and two in between.

Tani then moved to his final task on the port side of Harmony. There he put together 11 avionics lines.

Whitson, meanwhile, configured heater cables, then mated electrical umbilicals by hooking up four electrical harnesses linking Pressurized Mating Adapter-2 at the outboard end of Harmony to station power.

The two spacewalkers then did the standard cleanup process and reentered the airlock. The beginning of its repressurization marked the official end of the spacewalk.

Another spacewalk by Whitson and Tani to complete the exterior hookup of Harmony is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 24.

Photographs courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, November 29, 2007, Pages 1 & 9

Farm ingenuity comes in handy for Whitson in space station

International Space Station Commander Peggy Whitson is spending another six-month visit to the International Space Station during a particularly busy time of expansion of the space station. From time to time she writes e-mails that are made public and this one tells about her first month on the space station. She mentions her dad, Keith Whitson, at one point in the e-mail.

By Peggy Whitson

What a jam-packed month we have had here! I first wrote "couple of weeks," but started counting them in my head and realized it has already been a month...so time really is flying by, almost as fast as we are at 17,500 mph!

After arrival to the International Space Station, I immediately laid "claim" to Clay Anderson, fellow midwesterner and Expedition 15 crew member who would stay until STS-120 departure.

Clay and I previously had the opportunity to work together on an underwater mission in the Aquarius habitat located off the Florida Keys, and we also trained together as a backup crew for Expedition 14. Needless to say, the Iowa-Nebraska rivalry picked up as though we hadn't missed a beat.

Clay had a tradition where he would play a "wake-up" song for mission control each morning before our daily planning conference with the ground team and in his best radio voice, he would dedicate a song from "K-ISS Radio." He was pretty clever about finding a song related to some activity or event.

Sleep shifting for the Soyuz departure and the Shuttle launch, he played "Who Needs Sleep?" Halloween was the "Monster Mash." The morning after Pam Melroy and her crew launched to join us on orbit, he played "Whip It" in honor of two women commanders in orbit and the whip that the Kazakh official gave me as a symbol of being the leader for this mission. I probably should have used the whip on him, but most times I was laughing too hard.

There were eight days of overlap with the Expedition 15 and 16 crew members and Sheikh Muszaphar, the Malaysian space flight participant. Even though Yuri and I have lived up here for six months on previous missions, it was important to get the most recent "gauge" on everything from where the trash bags are now stowed to best operating practices for new rack facilities, like MELFI (the freezer) while we had the Expedition 15 crew around.

While many things are exactly as I remember (the computer pantry is where it used to be), things like Clay's recent activities to set up the new station local area network provided lots of new info for me. Most of our activities during this time frame were in preparation for the arriving Shuttle crew, packing items to be returned to Earth on the Shuttle, organizing the tools, spacesuits and charging batteries for the space walks, and pre-positioning hardware that we needed for activities during the Shuttle docked time frame.

The biggest difference in my experience here on station now as compared to my previous flight is the fact that there are two U.S. crew members and only one Russian. It [Page 9] is great having another crew member around (within the same or next module) to joke around with, share the beauty of something seen out the window and being easily available to help one another.

While I didn't mind being the sole U.S. crew member on my previous flight, it is special to be able to share some of the moments with someone else in the room.

Two days after the Soyuz departed, we watched the STS-120 Shuttle crew launch via videoconference with the ground. I think some part of me was expecting a weather delay, so I was really surprised when the Shuttle did launch. Clay, literally, was spinning since his ride home was on the way. In the two days following, while we waited for them to sync up with us on orbit, I cranked up my pace to make sure everything was ready for them...I'm a good worrier.

It was great greeting friends to the station, our little outpost on orbit, but 10 minutes after the smiles, hugs, and back-slapping, we were diving right into the work. We had spacesuits and gear to transfer and set up, prepare the space-walking crew for the overnight campout (we depress the pressure in the airlock to 10.2 psi in order to reduce the nitrogen in the blood/tissues so that when we do the spacewalks in spacesuits that are at a lower pressure than sea level there is less risk of getting the bends during the EVA) and robotics to perform that every first day in preparation for unberthing the new Harmony module (Node 2) from the Shuttle and placing it on its temporary resting place on Unity (Node 1)>

The next several days were a blur of activities, with the EVAs and the robotics, and even included the addition of an inspection task on the starboard SARJ (solar alpha rotary joint) which had been showing some unusual readings and visible vibrations just prior to the arrival of the Shuttle. Enough unusual behavior in fact, that the team had decided to "park" it (leaving it in a constant position, as opposed to the rotating with our orbit to find the best sun angle for solar power generation) until we could make some further assessments.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the truss there were big plans. The port 6 (P6) solar array, seated on the zenith side of Node 1 was plucked from this spot, handed off to the Shuttle arm (we refer to this arm as the small arm, much to the chagrin of the Shuttle guys), the mobile transporter, carrying the station arm (the big arm, by process of elimination), then moved to the end of the tracks and into position of the P6 solar array truss hand-off and installation.

The complicated choreography between the robotic arms (with two operators each), EVA crew (the guys doing the spacewalk) and the IV crew (the guy keeping the tasks organized for the EVA crew) for the entire set-up and conduct of the task was considered to be the "sportiest" part of the docked time frame. All of that went pretty much without any significant glitches, much to the relief of all involved.

But the real test was yet to come. We unfurled one wing of the array with no issues...in just under the expected 12 minutes. The other side of the array was the one that was so problematic during the retraction last December, so we were particularly attentive to the behavior of the array during the deploy.

We passed the trouble spot, but the lighting was so bright that our cameras were flaring and our camera views deteriorated. We decided to abort and wait a few minutes to see if the picture would improve. It did, and we continued the deploy, but shortly after re-initiating the deploy, we spotted a tear in the array and aborted again.

My heart was in my throat as we did a video survey of the damage. My initial thought was that we were lucky that the portion of the array that carries the current (FCC) appeared to be intact. Game over if it had been torn too. Although consciously I knew there was some risk in the re-deploy of this array, I was not only disappointed, but very concerned about how limited our repair options might be...and further what the implications for the station would be if we couldn't repair it. Needless to say, that a whole worrier thing that I specialize in was in high gear.

The next morning we started activities that had previously been planned to support the subsequent EVA, knowing (hoping) that there was a good chance that the plan would be changing dramatically. That afternoon, we got the word that the next EVA was changing to focus on solar array repair and would be delayed a day for the team to get all the procedures ready for us.

At that time, they were not able to give us any details on the repair, but said there would be "more words" in the morning. I think it is interesting to note that we as a crew (Shuttle and Station combined) knew that any repair option would not be easy, but that we were all optimistic that our ground team would come up with something viable. Maybe that was our only choice, since the alternative -- jettisoning the array -- was just to horrible to accept or dwell on...

The following day we got the big picture plan for making and using cuff link-like wires to thread through the holes in the seams of the arrays, such that the cuff-links would take the loading as the array was completely deployed, providing relief for the torn section. There were EVA and robotics conferences with the ground teams and our folks on board that day to go over the details.

In the meantime, George Zamka (Shuttle pilot - Zambo) and I got busy building the cuff links "from scratch." We watched a "How To" video by Don Pettit (our resident astronaut genius) telling us what we were going to build and how to do it. We had to precisely cut metal sheeting, shave the corners, and then punch a pair of holes in each of them. Metal shavings in zero gravity can be hazardous, so we were garbed in safety goggles and working in front of a vacuum cleaner.

After that, we covered the metal pieces with Kapton tape, followed by EVA tape (so they wouldn't be conductive to electricity), and then threaded a very precise length of plastic-coated wire through the holes. We knew that all the dimensions were critical; the ground team called us and told us to change one pair of lengths by 3/8 of an inch! It took us six hours to build the five cuff links... and looking at the hand-made spindly wires with the metal tabs on the end, I was still having a hard time imagining how this was really going to work.

My dad, a farmer, always said you can fix just about anything with a "number 2 wire and a pair of pliers." It seemed to me like we were testing the limits of his philosophy of this one.

The solar array repair EVA was delayed another day to further refine the procedures. I was comfortable with taking the additional time, even though it meant moving Yuri's and my EVA to the stage instead of conducting it in the docked mission...the priority had to be on the repair.

More conferences with the ground teams to review the specific details of the robotics and EVA tasks were conducted the next day. A new definition of what was considered "sporty" in terms of robotics and EVA maneuvers was further defined. The amount of training material and the procedures that were coming up from the ground left no doubt in our minds that we had every able-bodied person at NASA working to come up with a solution. It was a great feeling to be a part of that focused and determined team.

Repair day, we all dove into our tasks, but there was notably more tension on board the station, and if possible, I think I sensed it from the ground team too. Maybe because our team had not rehearsed this little scenario, maybe because of the risks involved in completing the task, maybe because of the implications if repair wasn't feasible...

The views from Scott's helmet camera were spectacular, as Stephanie and Dan "flew" him out to the worksite on the end of the big arm with the orbiter inspection extension arm at the end of that. The maneuvers required to get Scott to the work site took a bit more than an hour, and were by no means simple. Even with the extension, it became apparent early on in the repair work that the arm wasn't really long enough to reach some parts of the array that Scott needed to thread the cuff links through.

Because of the fact that the array wasn't taut and that Scott had long arms (monkey arms as Pambo referred to them), he was able to pull the array toward himself using his Kapton-taped tools and managed to thread the cuff links into place.

The next test was the continued deploy of the array...to see if the cuff links would hold. The ground had asked us to deploy half a bay (a little less than a yard) at a time to incrementally monitor the loading on the array/cuff links. A simple key stroke for "deploy" on the computer, followed relatively quickly with an "abort" command, made difficult only by the fact that my fingers and toes were crossed, and I was saying a prayer, as well! My relief at seeing the cuff links seemingly carrying the load grew with each half-bay that we successfully deployed.

From our two port windows, it is now possible to watch two pairs of arrays, each 214 feet long, slowly tracking the sun while we circle the Earth in the sunlit portion of our orbit. Like another set of sails on our ship, they look even more spectacular now, knowing how close the ugly alternatives truly were...

Our ship continues to sail as a testament to what can be accomplished by a very determined/dedicated group of people. I am very proud to be a part of that team.

Two chances next week to see the ISS fly over Iowa

Want to see the International Space Station from Iowa?

Want to see the International Space Station from Iowa?

There will be a good opportunity on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at 5:50 p.m.

The space station should be visible from Mount Ayr if the weather cooperates for about four minutes as it moves across the sky. The maximum elevation in the sky will be about 35 degrees with 90 degrees being overhead. The space station will move from the south-southwest to the east in those four minutes.

Another good opportunity will come Wednesday, Dec. 5, between 6:13 to 6:17 p.m. The ISS will sweep within 235 miles of viewers on the ground that night. The maximum elevation in the sky will be 63 degrees on this pass, which will move from the west-southwest to the north-northeast.

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, December 06, 2007, Pages 1 & 9

Company coming to space station

By Alan Smith

It's time for more company at the International Space Station this weekend.

The International Space Station is where astronaut Peggy Whitson is commander, will add another new section when a new module comes up with the shuttle Atlantis, which will hook up Saturday.

When the 122nd mission of the Space Shuttle program begins a crew of astronauts to the space station this week, they will deliver the European Columbus science laboratory.

Whitson and astronaut Dan Tani have done space walks to get the Harmony module, brought on the last shuttle visit, in working order so that it can be used to link up the new science laboratory.

The space station crew will also be rotating out a member as astronaut Dan Tani will head back to earth to be replaced by European Space Agency astronaut Leopold Eyharts, a French colonel.

The Columbus laboratory is the cornerstone of the European Space Agency's contribution to the International Space Station and is the first European laboratory dedicated to long-term research in space.

The module will support sophisticated research in weightlessness, having internal and external accommodations for numerous experiments in life sciences, fluid physics and other scientific disciplines.

While there are flurries of activity when shuttles bring new equipment and people to the International Space Station, regular days without visitors are full as well. Even on Thanksgiving, which was a light-duty schedule day, Whitson and the other astronauts are busy.

Here's what Thanksgiving Day was like in space for Whitson.

Morning wake up was at 6 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time, with breakfast at 6:40 a.m. and time to get ready for the work day before the daily planning conference at 7:45 a.m. with people back at NASA.

Whitson and cosmonaut Malnchenko then started off the day with a 30-minute Shuttle R-bar Pitch Maneuver skill training -- Whitson's third session. The astronauts used digital skill cameras with 400 and 800 mm lenses at two service module windows to take pictures of earth observation targets.

Afterward Whitson downlinked the images to the ground for analysis to be discussed with the photographers later. The skill training prepares the crew members for bottom side mapping of the orbiter at the arrival of the Shuttle this weekend.

During the shuttle maneuver at 600 feet from the station, the ISS crew have 90 seconds for taking high-resolution digital photographs of all tile areas and door seals on the Atlantis to be down-linked for launch debris assessment. The practices get the crew members ready to work together to get the needed photographs.

Next in the day for Whitson was two and a half hours of exercise with the restive exercise devices and the cycle ergometer. Readouts on the body functions during exercise are downloaded to Earth.

Next Whitson performed the weekly 10-minute contingency water container audit as part of the continuing assessment of onboard water supplies. Currently there are several containers of water that were brought up by the Discovery mission that show signs of contamination with a common soil bacterium and are currently off-limits to the crew.

Whitson and Tani then worked in the U.S. airlock to ready tools for their space walk and recharged the backpacks with water.

After lunch at 2 p.m., Whitson and Tani reviewed uplinked procedural material for the space walk, [Page 16] batteries in the battery storage assembly.

Among items that were in the job jar for Whitson and Tani to do during a work prep time were working on a scientific project where a mixing of magnet needed to be unstuck, relocating a power strip junction to replace one that failed and get ready to take out the trash (gathering trash for disposal from a list sent to them from the ground). The trash goes back on a satellite that burns up in re-entry.

After some time for daily food preparation and an hour of presleep personal time, bedtime was 9:30 p.m.

Another day aboard the space station -- and a light duty day at that.

Diagram courtesy of European Space Agency
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, December 13, 2007, Page 9

Whitson waits for delayed shuttle mission

At left, ISS commander Peggy Whitson is shown floating in the new Harmony section of the space station which was recently added on. ~NASA photo.

The Space Shuttle Atlantis mission to deliver and install the Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station, which has been scheduled last week, has been delayed until no earlier than Jan. 2, according to NASA officials.

Mission managers and engineers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center are evaluating an issue with fuel sensors in the liquid hydrogen tank before determining what step to take next. The team was finalizing a plan to present to space shuttle program management this week.

Space shuttle Atlantis is targeted for launch no earlier than Jan. 2, 2008, on mission STS-122. The seven astronauts who are to fly aboard Atlantis returned to Houston and will continue training as NASA's Johnson Space Center in preparation for the mission to the International Space Station.

The main objective of Atlantis' 11-day mission is to install and activate the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory, which will provide scientists around the world the ability to conduct a variety of life, physical and materials science experiments.

Meanwhile, the Expedition 16 crew is pressing ahead with normal station activities including housekeeping and science experiments. The crew also monitored the refilling of ammonia in the cooling loops inside the Destiny lab.

Early Saturday, Mission Control noted the simultaneous trip of two station circuit breakers and a power surge protection device. The equipment is associated with a positioning device for the station solar arrays called a Beta Gimbal Assembly that can change the angle of one of the two wings of the S4 solar array on the station's starboard side.

Using a backup path for ground commands, controllers reset the circuit breakers and set the angle of the wing to a favorable, but temporary angle for power production, where it currently remains. Normally, the angle of the arrays changes frequently to maximize power generation. Engineers are evaluating the problem.

Neither this Beta Gimbal Assembly issue nor the unrelated issue with the Solar Alpha Rotary Joint, which rotates the starboard solar arrays, impacts current station operations, according to NASA officials.

In her latest journal available to the public, Whitson talked about the space walks where the Harmony module was added to the space station back in November that gave the station a new window on the world.

"On the station, almost all of our windows face the earth," Whitson writes. "During the first stage space walk (EVA), Yuri and I removed the thermal blanket that had been covering the small window (about 10 inch in diameter) on Harmony, which looked straight port. Although looking out the window below is always interesting, I think seeing the curve of the planet, and that thin band of atmosphere protecting it, is even more dramatic. On top of that, we had in the foreground four sets of brilliant orange solar arrays. I think I liked this vantage point because it really emphasized just where we are.

"We enjoyed it for about three days, before installing the centerline berthing camera to assist in the mating of the pressurized mating adapter (PMA - the Shuttle docking port), covering up our lateral view. However, an equivalent-sized window was opened up on the forward tab for a couple of days, with the removal of the PMA2 and before the berthing of the Harmony/PMA2 back into this position. We had spectacular views out the 'windshield' of our vehicle. What a difference a window can make!

"In order to move the Pressurized Mating Adapter 2 from the lab forward position to the Node 2/Harmony, and then two days later, move both the Node2/PMA2 back to lab forward, the use of the robotic arm was required. Dan Tani is our arm expert and was the lead for the PMA2/Node 2 moves while I took the lead on the common berthing mechanisms (the computer-driven bolting and unbolting of the modules).

"The second move, with the combination of both the PMA2/Node 2 stack, was the 'heaviest' object ever moved by the station robotic arm. Of course, in zero gravity it doesn't really weight anything, but mass does make a difference!

"Typically, our station holds a specific attitude relative to the earth and the velocity vector (the direction in which we are moving), using control moment gyros to hold/stabilize this position without the use of thrusters. (It's better not to burn fuel since that is a consumable that requires re-supply).

"Eventually, the stabilization requires more momentum than the CMGs can manage, and the gyros will 'saturate.' Typically, if the gyros saturate, the control of Station is automatically handed over to the thrusters, but during bolting/unbolting and the robotics, we were not able to use thrusters. Thus, we anticipated that there was a 'non-zero' chance that the station would lose attitude control (LOAC, pronounced low-AK), moving such a massive object.

"Dan throughout training, and when he was moving the real thing, would start the joint maneuvers by counting down to the start, with '3-2-1-LOAC.' Humorous in training, but I still had the procedures for LOAC during these maneuvers handy.

"During training we cover various malfunctions, including loss of camera views, loss of data or ability to command during bolting/unbolting. But on the 'real' day, we saw none of this. The camera views were not only available, they were spectacular, with the curve of our earth as a blue and white backdrop for the robotic moves. Magnificent!

"After finishing driving the 16 powered bolts into a stable enough position to allow the resumption of the attitude control, with Harmony berthed to its final resting place, I called Houston and said, 'Have I mentioned lately how much I love nominal operations?' It was a flawless day that just got better.

"We finished these operations a couple of hours early and moved onto vestibule outfitting. This outfitting is not difficult, but requires some choreography with the ground. We were cruising along with this, also ahead of schedule and the capcom, my friend Jim Kelly (Vegas), called up and asked if we wanted to continue and complete the ingress.

"Dan and I were so excited about the move and our progress with vestibule outfitting, we jumped at the opportunity and got the go to complete ingress (several days earlier than outlined in the plan). I could tell by Vegas' voice, the ground folks were working a lot of steps as he constantly fed us updates and checked our status. Vegas gave me the go to open the hatch, but shortly after, we moved out of common range with the ground.

"I opened the hatch and Yuri, Dan and I ingressed Harmony in its final position on the forward end of the lab. Without any fanfare, we floated, twirled and spun in our new room. Although, there wasn't the equivalent of a 'new car smell,' the lack of hardware on the rack fronts and the continuation of the straight length from Unity (Node 1) and Destiny (Lab) made the whole station seem much larger than can be accounted for by the length of Harmony. A very nice addition to our house."

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, January 03, 2008, Pages 1 & 10

Family sends presents, well-wishes
to astronaut Peggy Whitson in space

The Expedition 16 crew members pose for a Christmas photo in the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station. From the left are the Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko, Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Dan Tani ~NASA photo.

Christmas and New Years aboard the International Space Station may have been a little less busy than originally planned for the Expedition 16 crew, but presents arrived and there was time to chat with folks back on earth for Ringgold county's own commander Peggy Whitson.

The ISS crew is still awaiting the delayed visit by the next Shuttle crew, which is brining a new module to the space station and a replacement crew member for the space station. That launch may not come until the middle of January now, according to NASA officials.

Keith and Beth Whitson had an opportunity to speak directly with Whitson over a live link-up at the Mount Ayr Community high school on Friday, Dec. 21.

"Despite the delay of the shuttle mission, she's still pretty busy," Beth Whitson said this week. "She did get some books for Christmas and she was having time to do a little reading while she exercised."

Santa Claus arrived at the space station in the guise of a new Progress cargo carrier that docked with the space station early Wednesday morning (probably after finishing up the rounds on earth).

Among the 2.5 tons of fuel, air, water and other supplies on board the cargo carrier were Christmas presents that Whitson's family back on earth had sent. There are stringent limits on what can be sent so Beth Whitson said most of the presents were food to add some variation in the diet the astronauts have available on the space station.

The station's 27th Progress unpiloted spacecraft brought to the orbiting laboratory more than 1,900 pounds of propellant, more than 100 pounds of oxygen and 2,921 pounds of dry cargo. Total cargo weight is 4,949 pounds.

It replaces the trash-filled P26 which was undocked from Friday. P26 will be deorbited for destruction on re-entry in mid-January, after conducting Earth observation experiments.

Once the Expedition 16 crew members have unloaded the cargo, P27 will be filled with trash and station discards. It will be undocked from the station and like its predecessor deorbited to burn in the earth's atmosphere.

Kind of an exciting way to get rid of the wrapping paper.

On Christmas Day itself, Peggy Whitson got to have a linkup with husband Clarence Sams at their Houston home and then linked up with Sams and friends at NASA back on earth for a Christmas visit that afternoon.

"Peggy did all right this Christmas, even in space," her mother said.

The three Expedition 16 crew members aboard the International Space Station wrapped up the last full work week of 2007 along with their Progress stowing work.

The crew worked Friday on a number of biomedical experiments that focus on the long-term effects of the station's microgravity environment on the human body. Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko began the day winding up overnight operations of SONOCARD, a Russian experiment which monitors crew physiological functions during sleep.

Later Malenchenko participated in a study of the cardiovascular system under stress by working out on the VELO, one of two bicycle-like exercise devices aboard the station, while biomedical equipment collected data on his physical condition. Commander Peggy Whitson assisted Malenchenko.

Whitson and Flight Engineer Dan Tani each took turns working out with the CEVIS cycle ergometer while wearing a heart rate monitor to collect data for their own periodic fitness evaluations.

The Expedition 16 crew members received New Year's good wishes from Russian space leaders Anatoly Perminov and Vitaly Leopata. Perminov is the Administrator of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, and Lopata is the Chief Designer at RSC-Engeria.

Gearing up for New Year's, Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko held a space-to-ground news conference with Russian journalists. Also, Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Dan Tani talked to reporters from ABC's "Good Morning America."

The crew was given off-duty days for both New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Whitson and Tani did work on modifications of the environmental control system in the U.S. laboratory Destiny Monday morning.

Back on earth there are plans that may give Whitson another [Page 10] space walk in the future to fix a problem with a joint that was found in earlier work space walks.

That will depend on what kind of a fix can be developed and then getting the materials up to the station to do the work.

Life goes on the space station with a new year coming that will see the size of the station grow even more with the addition of the new module from European nations, which will be doing scientific experiments on the future.

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, January 17, 2008, Pages 1 & 14

Science projects part of activity on space station

While awaiting the next space shuttle mission now rescheduled for liftoff February 7, the crew on the International Space Station has been working on science projects on board among other things.

A station reboost was scheduled for the International Space Station on Friday, Jan. 11, to place the complex in the correct position for the launch and docking of the Progress 28 cargo carrier in February.

The net gain in altitude is about seven kilometers, or 4.3 statue miles, at the perigee of the station's orbit. After getting this one, The Expedition 16 crew was busy with science experimentation and station maintenance.

At right, Astronaut Peggy A. Whitson, Expedition 16 commander, works at the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station.

Commander Peggy Whitson continued working with the In-SPACE experiment which studies special fluids, or "smart materials," that may improve such things as braking systems and robotics. In the Microgravity Science Glovebox, the fluids are subjected to a magnetic field and then transition to a solid-like state>

Flight Engineer Dan Tani took air samples for the Analyzing Interferometer for Ambient Air (ANITA) experiment, which monitors 32 potential gaseous contaminants in the atmosphere on board the station. Tani also cleaned the filters and the interior panel ventilation grill of the Zarya module.

These are just some of the science projects being done while Whitson is aboard the International Space Station.

ISS and shuttle crew members are collecting blood and saliva samples for a new study of immune function in microgravity. The objective for the integrated immune project is to develop and validate an immune monitoring strategy consistent with operational flight requirements and constraints.

Previous observations suggest that space flight might have a negative impact on different elements of the immune system. Possible causes are the effects of microgravity on the body, stress and radiation exposure. However, the fact that there have been very few infections of astronauts, while important on one level, had made it difficult to translate observations of immune system changes into assessment of potential risks.

The integrated immune study is the first to comprehensively monitor the performance of the immune system before, during and after space flight missions of long and short durations.

Preflight and postflight, crew members provide samples of blood, urine and saliva.

The study will use the data produced to validate the collection methods for monitoring immune function and help identify whether countermeasures are needed to [Page 14] prevent immune dysfunction during long and short-duration space flights.

There are another 53 science experiments that are being worked on during Expedition 16. Some of them are continuations of experiments from earlier missions and others will be continued after the Expedition 16 crew has returned to earth.

The astronauts themselves run tests on themselves for experiments like on validating the methodology for assessment of cardiac function and changes in the circulating volume of blood using ultrasound and occlusion cuffs.

Another test on astronauts tests cytogenetic effects of ionizing radiation on crew member peripheral lymphocytes.

Experiments simulate the geophysical fluid flow under microgravity, test binary colloidal alloys, measure space station acoustics, look at crew member journals for behavioral issues associated with isolation and confinement or check space environment effects on bacterial spores on the space station.

All in all the space station's role as a platform to expand knowledge on many levels is an integral part of each expedition, and that is no exception for the Expedition 16 crew.

NASA photograph
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, January 24, 2008, Pages 1 & 16

Curve of earth, exercise part of Whitson's life on space station

At left, Commander Peggy A. Whitson exercises in the Destiny laboratory on the International Space Station. NASA photo.

The view and exercising in space -- these are two of the topics shared by astronaut Peggy Whitson in recent notes from space to the journal she keeps.

The journal entries are shared this week with Mount Ayr Record-News readers in her own words.

The curve of the earth

I remember my first flight in an airplane after returning to earth after my last expedition.

After the initial shock of realizing how close to the ground I was at 35,000 feet (yikes!) as compared to 200-ish miles that I had become accustomed to, my eyes were constantly drawn to the horizon, searching for the curve that I couldn't quite see.

Although all the views of our planet are incredible and varied from our viewpoint up here on the International Space Station, with the colors, textures and lighting changing as we orbit, the most impressive view is the curve of the planet at the horizon. That curve is the special place where it is possible to see the layers of atmosphere extend beyond the surface to meet with the blackness of space beyond.

Relative to the size of the earth, it seems impossibly thin, less than a finger-width. The atmosphere carries all the shades of blue in that thin band, closest to the planet a glowing blue, like sunlit water over white sand, extending to the deepest blue-purple mixture that holds the blackness at bay.

As the night-side of the planet slips beneath me, it carries on the fringes of darkness the colors of a sunset on the clouds below. The station is still lit by the sun, despite the fact that we have already crossed the terminator between day and night below us.

This is the timeframe when the station is most visible to folks on the ground, just before their dawn or after their dusk. A small bit of sunlight is reflected off of our structure, illuminates us moving across their darkened sky.

As the terminator approaches the horizon, the sun shows a blinding face that burns the atmosphere with molten reds and oranges before seemingly melting itself into the darkness, leaving a royal blue line that dissipates more slowly as the stars come out from hiding.

Less than an hour passes before our path around the planet brings us back to the royal blue curve, signaling sunrise, as the process reverses itself. I am sure that after I return, I will again miss watching the curve of the earth.

Exercise in space

Each Station crew members is scheduled for an hour of cardio (either treadmill or cycle ergometer) and an hour of resistive exercise (the equivalent of weightlifting) each day while we are in orbit.

With these exercises, we are trying to minimize the negative physiological effects of living in a microgravity environment, were the lack of gravity for just the normal "walking or sitting around," means that our muscles and bones are deteriorating at faster than normal rates as compared to on earth.

I like to exercise, but the additional incentive to reduce these negative physiological impacts of living in space drive me to work out regularly. Returning to a normal gravity environment after a six-month mission was challenging last time, in spite of the fact that I worked out routinely on my last mission as well.

So, the desire to be able to walk and function normally when I return is a good motivator. A more real time motivator while I am up here is the need to be ready for a space walk.

For this mission I have been lucky enough to be able to participate in three space walks (EVAs). Being in the pressurized space suit for seven hours while trying to accomplish hand-intensive assembly or repair tasks is another huge motivator for me (I don't want to look weak while everyone is watching!) My motto when it comes to [Page 16] EVAs is that "you can never be too strong."

Successful long duration expeditions, whether to the poles of our earth, the peak of a mountain, below the ocean, or up here in space, require a positive outlook.

I advise rookie crew members that the self-knowledge of what things can keep you happy and help maintain a positive outlook is a critical aspect of preparation for long duration space flight.

There is a psychological aspect of exercise that I value, both personally, as well as, for the overall mission goals. Both here on orbit or (even more so) on the ground, I use exercise as a stress reliever (Peggy gets cranky without exercise).

I always feel more relaxed after working out. While I have never been a big believer in that whole endorphin thing, I do get a sense of satisfaction from working out that positively lifts my attitude. So far me, exercise is not only a critical physical component to life up there, it has an important psychological component too.

Photographs courtesy of NASA & Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, February 14, 2008, Pages 1 & 14

Space station schedule picks up with arrival of shuttle
Food choices can get monotonous even with longer menu rotation

The guests are a couple of months late, but the astronauts from the space shuttle mission 122 arrived Saturday at the International Space Station to be met by ISS commander Peggy Whitson and her crew.

The delay meant that flight engineer Daniel Tani got a longer visit in space than originally planned, and European Space Agency astronaut Leopold Eyharts, who will replace Tani on the space station, may have a shorter stay than originally planned.

Arriving with the space station was the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory.

There will be three space walks to get the new section of the space station attached and other work on the space station done before the space shuttle heads back to earth.

Focused inspections of space shuttle Atlantis' heat shield are in progress in the meantime. Mission managers are taking a closer look at a small tear in the thermal blanket on the shuttle's right Orbital Maneuvering System pod.

The first space walk made preparations to allow the station's robotic arm to grab the laboratory module and move it from the shuttle's payload bay to the space station's Harmony module, which was attached during the last space shuttle visit.

After a long wait where astronauts were finding work to keep them busy, the shuttle arrival makes schedules hectic again.

While new supplies come with each shuttle visit, it doesn't mean that there will be major changes in the somewhat monotonous food that the astronauts eat.

And she probably isn't serving up space hamburgers. That would used up too much of her own food choice stash.

Before commander Peggy Whitson headed for the space station this time, she noted that those on the space station were going to a standardized menu with longer rotation of meals.

"Last time we had an eight day rotation but this time we have a 16-day rotation that is standardized," she noted.

On the eight day rotation, astronauts got one container of bonus food of their own choosing a month.

"The bonus food container is food like one might buy in the grocery store, but it has to be checked for low microbial content so it will last long enough," Whitson said.

"With the new plan, astronauts will get a preference food per month from tone normally made for the crews," she said. "The tortilla chicken fajitas are my favorites so I'll have more of those along."

The new menus that Whitson was looking forward to didn't make much of a difference.

"There really is only so much you can do with rehydratable canned or prepacked MRE-like food," she said. "I think this time I got bored with the food much sooner than I did during the first flight," Whitson said.

"Obviously we have to stay healthy in order to accomplish our mission, so we eat anything -- something I refer to 'sport eating.'"

In one of her diary entries from space this time around she said that the crew motto is that it's all about the sauce.

"We have salsa, hot sauce, hot pepper sauce, sun-dried tomato paste, pesto paste, olive oil, catsup-like sauces, horseradish sauce, mayonnaise, BBQ sauce, mustards of various types... They come in plastic bottles and squeeze tubes.

"A common question at lunch or dinner is 'What are you having with your sauce today?' Last night I was giving Yuri a hard time. He was squeezing out the last few bits of a past from one of the squeeze tubes directly into his mouth. I told him that was taking our motto, 'It's all about the sauce,' to the limit!

"After our first two stage EVAs were over, we had a day and a half off. It was one of the first times in which we had some time off two days in a row during the mission...so we planned dinner and a movie night.

"Something I had created during Expedition 5 was space hamburgers. So I tried to reproduce that for Yuri and Dan. Our standard menu no longer has re-hydratable hamburger patties in it, so I had requested, in advance, to have patties and dinner rolls in my preference foods (a container selected by the individual crew member that can be used over the course of a month, as opposed to the menu foods that we all share).

[Page 14] Space hamburgers went over pretty well, because they were different than the standard stuff, but there is some assembly required...using the sauce/sauces of choice to hold them together!

There are still a couple of months before Whitson will be back on earth and can have the real thing.

She'll be within 375 miles of home this week, but that's straight up that's a long way to cook out.

Valentine wave from space station tonight

[Page 1] While astronaut Peggy Whitson won't be able to see a wave tonight, (Thursday) will be a good time to see the space station come over.

The space station will be within 375 miles of Mount Ayr as it passes over Iowa between 6:25 and 6:34 p.m. tonight.

Watch for it to appear out of the handle of the Little Dipper which points to the North Star. It will then travel down the night sky headed toward the Big Dipper before it disappears again after being visible for some nine minutes.

The closest part of the pass (the 375 miles part) would come about 6:30 p.m.

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, Mrach 06, 2008, Page 10

Whitson readying space station for Endeavour visit

Orbiting the Earth aboard the International Space Station, the Expedition 16 crew spent Friday wrapping up a busy week with preparations for an upcoming visit from space shuttle Endeavour carrying the station's new Japanese module.

After a weekly conference between the station crew and the Russian flight control team, Commander Peggy Whitson installed the Centerline Berthing Camera System (CBCS) in the Harmony module. The CBCS will provide visual cues at to the astronauts as they install the Japanese Experiment Logistics Module-Pressurized Section (JLP), which is being delivered by Endeavour on the STS-123 mission in March. JLP is the first component of Kibo, the Japanese Experiment Module, to be launched to the station.

Whitson later moved to the Quest airlock to perform maintenance on the cooling loops of the U.S. spacesuits. Five spacealks are planned while Endeavour is at the station.

Whitson also worked with the Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Emulsions 2 (InSPACE-2) experiment. InSPACE looks at fluids that change propeties in response to magnetic fields and collects data that can be used to develop or improve brake systems and robotics.

Earlier in the week, Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko set up the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) control panel. The first ATV, named Jules Verne, is set to launch to the station from French Guiana on an Ariane 5 rocket on March 8.

The ATV will dock automatically with the station after the departure of STS-123, though station crew members can take charge of the process if difficulties arise.

The ATV is a new generation of unpiloted cargo carriers designed to supply the International Space Station with fluid and dry cargo as well as gases. It has a substantially greater cargo capacity than the Russian Progress cargo carrier that has proven itself a reliable workhorse.

The ATVs - the first is named Jules Verne - will, like its sister cargo carriers, launch from French Guiana on an Ariane 5. The Kourou launch site is about five degrees north of the Equator, giving the Ariane almost full advantage of the Earth's rotation.

The ATV is more than 32 feet long and almost 15 feet in diameter. It has a dry weight of about 23,000 pounds. It docks automatically with the station, though station crew members can take charge of the process if difficulties arise.

It can carry more than 16,800 pounds of cargo. It can transport as much as 12,000 pounds of dry cargo, almost 1,850 pounds of water, as much as 220 pounds of gases, and up to 1,890 pounds of propellant for the station.

Additionally, tanks for its own engines can hold more than 10,000 pounds of propellant for its own four main engines and 28 attitude control thrusters. The ATV's main engines can reboost the station, and its thrusters can provide station attitude control.

Once its standard racks are emptied (it can accommodate eight of them) and other dry cargo is transferred from its 1,685-cubit-foot pressurized cargo area and liquids and gases are moved into station tanks, the ATV becomes a garbage container. It can load more than 13,800 pounds of dry and liquid wastes, which with the spacecraft are incinerated on re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. Plans call for at least seven ATVs to be built to support the station.

The station's newest crew members, Flight Engineer Leopold Eyharts, spent some time this week with orientation activities, familiarizing himself with procedures and onboard equipment.

He also collected a number of blood and urine samples for an ongoing study of human physiological changes during long-duration spaceflight.

~ ~ ~ ~

orbiter forum, April 01, 2008

Crew Conducts Science, Preps for Jules Verne Docking

Above: Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko and Commander Peggy Whitson monitor the approach of the Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle on Monday. Credit: NASA TV

The Expedition 16 crew of the International Space Station returned to science and station maintenance activities Tuesday after Monday’s successful test approach of the Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV).

Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Garrett Reisman worked together to set up equipment for a periodic physical fitness evaluation. Reisman exercised on the station’s cycle ergometer while wearing a heart rate monitor. Whitson collected data from this session, which exercise physiologists and flight surgeons will use to assess Reisman’s health and make adjustments to exercise regimes if needed.

Later, Reisman worked in the Quest airlock, performing maintenance on the cooling loops of the U.S. spacesuits.

In preparation for the ATV docking on Thursday, Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko checked the hardware needed to perform leak checks in the event of a failure in the power unit of the cargo carrier’s depress valve.

The Jules Verne approached the station on Monday for its "Demo Day 2" practice maneuvers. It moved to within 36 feet of the Zvezda Service Module in a rehearsal for docking on Thursday.

The ATV reached its closest point to the station at 12:38 p.m. EDT, at which time it was commanded by the crew to retreat to a point 62 feet away. From there it executed an "escape" command to depart the station for its three-day phasing prior to final approach and docking around 10:41 a.m. Thursday.

Photographs courtesy of orbiter forum
Transcriptions by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, April 10, 2008, Pages 1 & 14

Six months in space winding down for astronaut Whitson

Commander Peggy Whitson's record-setting time in space is winding down this week, with Whitson expected to return to earth on Saturday, April 19.

In a journal from space this week, Whitson wrote about the quickly-coming end of her second sojourn to the space station.

The Expedition 17 crew was to launch Tuesday morning aboard a Soyuz rocket from Kazakstan, coming to the space station in the vehicle in which Whitson will return to earth some 10 days later.

The Expedition 16 crew undocked the Progress 28 cargo ship Monday, headed for its deorbit and destructive re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific ocean with trash and discards from the Expedition 16 mission.

This will open up the docking area for the arrival today (Thursday) of the replacement crew for the space station.

Coming aboard will be Commander Sergei Volkov, Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko and spaceflight So-yeon Yi, a South Korean astronaut.

Aboard the station, the Expedition 16 crew members unloaded cargo from the Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle, which arrived last week. In addition to performing regular exercise and maintenance duties, Expedition 16 Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko reviewed descent procedures for their return to Earth.

"A landing day approaches a bit more quickly now, the list of last minute things I need to do before departure seems to expand inversely with the time remaining," Whitson wrote. "People I wanted to thank from orbit, pictures I wanted to take, thoughts I wanted to capture in writing...it has always seemed that there would be plenty of time, until now.

"Yuri Malenchenko pointed out last week, while catching a floating chunk of Japanese-provided rice with his chopsticks (a feat that I consider challenging when I have gravity-assist) that during our stay here this time, we have eaten food from the U.S. and Russia, of course, but also from Malaysia, France and Japan, and we are expecting Korean food with the arrival of the next Coyuz (and their Korean space flight participant).

"Yuri's insight with the food got me reflecting on what a truly international flavor (pun intended) this expedition has had. We have had the privilege to witness and participate in the addition of the Italian-built U.S. Harmony module, the European Columbus Laboratory module, the Kibo Japanese Logistics Module and the Canadian-built robotic arm extension (Dextre). All of this has been added to my (well, ok, it's not exactly mine) Station in the last six months!

"Each work day, we begin and end the day tagging up with the ground teams to the DPC (daily planning conference). During my [Page 14] first expedition here we would call Houston, Huntsville (in Alabama for payloads) and Moscow. During the course of this expedition, we have added calls to ground teams in Cologne, Germany, for the European Columbus module and Tsukuba, Japan, with the first installment of the three-part Japanese Kibo laboratory. And most recently, we started working with Tolouse in France for the European Automated Transfer Vehicle (cargo re-supply ship) rendezvous to the Station.

"I have to admit, I (still) find it amazing/unbelievable/eye-watering that a farm girl (ok, it's been a few years since I was a girl) has the opportunity to talk with people around the world from my orbiting home/lab on a daily basis. Even more than that, the around-the-world DPCs emphasize to me what an incredible partnership with the world we have established with our link, the International Space Station, up here in space."

It won't be long now until Whitson is back getting her Earth legs under her, but her Ringgold county family and friends look at her experiences with some of the same awe.

Photographs courtesy of NASA & Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Collect Space
Houston, Texas, April 17, 2008

Expedition 16 Commander Peggy Whitson officially handed over command of the International Space Station to Expedition 17 Commander Sergei Volkov on Thursday, during a ceremony held inside the U.S. Harmony Node.

"Well, today is the handover ceremony," began Whitson, beginning the now customary presentation. "I'm officially handing over the International Space Station to Sergei Volkov. I'm very happy to do so."

"Expedition 16 has consisted of a lot of crew members, some who are here, some who are not Clay Anderson, Dan Tani, Leo Eyharts, Yuri and Garrett and myself. We've had a really great privilege and honor to be here on the station when so much has changed. We feel like we have handed over a very beautiful station to you guys and look forward to your work."

"I know you are going to be a great commander, Sergei, and so I just wanted to hand it over to you," said Whitson.

"Thank you very much," replied commander Sergei Volkov, "and Expedition 17 take the station under our control. Thank you very much for such a precious station and a beautiful station. We wish you have a safe trip back home. Good luck!"

"As parting gifts, we have a couple for you. The first is... Garrett!" Whitson announced while laughing. Volkov proceeded to accept his new flight engineer, Garrett Reisman, who had tucked himself into a ball.

"He's your first gift and I know he's going to be a great addition to your crew."

"And the second gift, which is almost as important as Garrett, is the leftover sauce!" Whitson said while unveiling a small bouquet of food condiments.

"Thank you, thank you very much!" exclaimed Volkov.

"Yeah, you're in control now. You have the sauce," joked Whitson. "It's great to have you guys on-board and I am looking forward to watching you with great pleasure."

Whitson and Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko will return to Earth with South Korean spaceflight participant So-yeon Yi. They will undock from the station aboard Soyuz TMA-11 just after midnight CDT to land on the steppes of Kazakhstan at 3:30 a.m. CDT on Saturday.

[April 18, 2008] The hatch separating Soyuz TMA-11 and the International Space Station was closed at 9:09 p.m. CDT, with ISS Expedition 16 crewmembers Peggy Whitson and Yuri Malenchenko, as well as South Korean spaceflight participant Soyeon Yi on-board the Russian spacecraft.

Soyuz TMA-11 undocked from the International Space Station at 12:06 a.m. CDT on Saturday.

"Here we go," said Peggy Whitson.

"We're seeing separation," added Yuri Malenchenko.

The Soyuz will perform a deorbit burn at about 2:40 a.m. to begin the re-entry through the Earth's atmosphere. Landing is set for about 3:30 a.m. on the steppes of Kazakhstan.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, April 24, 2008, Pages 1 & 16

Peggy Whitson overcomes obstacles in space, return
By Alan Smith
Astronaut Peggy Whitson is helped down from the helicopter that brought her and her Soyuz capsule mates back to the space base in Kazakhstan. ~ NASA photo

It wasn't always smooth sailing for astronaut Peggy Whitson all the time on her latest mission to the International Space Station.

Breaking records as the American with the most time in space at 377 days, the woman with the most space walking time in the world with 39 hours and 46 minutes in six trips and commanding the space station for the mission with its biggest expansion in size were all well and good.

But there were glitches along the way to be handled, and the fact that the challenges were handled and overcome is another testament to resourcefulness of astronauts like Whitson, the crews with her, and the support staff back on the ground.

Meanwhile keeping track of the mission's progress with weekly one-way calls from the space station and more frequent emails back home in Beaconsfield were her parents, Keith and Beth Whitson.

On this mission, emergency repairs had to be done to a high-voltage solar wing that ripped on redeployment after a power girder was relocated. A solar wing motor drive also broke down, causing a spacewalk to fix it. And there were other problems.

Before heading home, Whitson said that some of her proudest moments were being able to handle the problems that came up.

Of course, Whitson's work ethic was important too. Mission planners had to start assigning extra work to the daily schedule because she worked efficiently and more hours than some to get more accomplished.

During her command of the space station as the first woman commander, she participated in installation of the Harmony, Columbus and the first part of the Kibo module additions as well as the docking of the Jules Verne space freighter, three space shuttles and another Soyuz spacecraft.

The growth of the space station means that in the not to distant future crews of six can man the space station instead of the three-person crews of the past.

Whitson recently told her parents that the station is so large that crew members can be "lost" from each other at times. That certainly was not the case on her first visit [Expedition V].

When asked recently what kinds of games could now be played in the space station, she responded that the crew had recently run relays through the modules -- and her team won, naturally.

She commanded Americans, Russians, an Italian, a Frenchman, a German, a South Korean and a Japanese crew at the station. It's just another example of how the International Space Station is becoming really international.

The turnover in crew was positive on one hand, but a bit harder to deal with than when a crew of three spent the whole time together on her first space station trip.

"It takes about two weeks to get up to speed on what is going on the space station and that training had to be done several times with the turnover of crew members this time around," Whitson told her parents.

All in all, Whitson told her parents she felt "pretty good" about the mission in a phone call after she returned to Earth.

If earlier problems weren't enough, the trip home was no picnic either.

[Page 16] The Soyuz craft bringing Whitson, Russian astronaut Yuri Malenchenko and South Korean spaceflight participant Yi So-Yeon back to earth undocked at 12:06 a.m. Central Daylight Time.

It was the first time ever that women outnumbered men in a space craft in flight, and that fact wasn't lost on Whitson, who teased Yuri Malenchenko, commander of the ride home, about that fact.

The Soyuz had its deorbit burn at 2:40 a.m. The plan for the Soyuz space craft is to do a burn to get it into the correct orbit for re-entry. Then the instrument and orbital modules are jettisoned and the spacecraft heads for earth, slowed by the earth's atmosphere and then slowed further by parachutes and a retro-rocket burst that gives it a relatively soft landing on Earth. It's quite a different ride than riding a Space Shuttle back to Earth like Whitson did on her first trip to the space station in 2002.

Something may have gone wrong with getting rid of the instrument and orbital modules at a key moment. Not only did that mean that the ride home would be the backup "ballistic" landing [a very steep trajectory that subjects the crew to extreme physical force], but the communications equipment went out for a while as well.

This meant a ride back where the g forces reached 10 gs or 10 times for force of gravity. In space Whitson was used to little or no gravity at all. On the way home she felt just the opposite.

A person who weighs 120 pounds would feel like they weighed 1,200 pounds. With an uncontrollable, steep trajectory the trip back to earth is shorter than planned so the space craft does not have as much time to slow down.

According to experts on g force, long exposure to 10 g force can be dangerous, causing loss of peripheral vision, breathing problems, blood to flow away from the upper parts of the body and even loss of consciousness.

Astronaut training in he centrifuges that spin them around are subjecting the astronauts to g forces to see how they will react.

Without communications, the Soyuz crew could not radio ahead and tell what was going on, so there was a few moments of uncertainty.

Back home in Beaconsfield, the Whitsons had arisen at 3 a.m., expecting that the Soyuz would land about 3:37 a.m. They have spent a lot of time watching NASA channel over the past six months while their daughter was in space.

The report that communications had been lost with the Soyuz capsule was a bit disconcerting.

"Peggy has taught me well to be optimistic about these things," Beth Whitson said. "I didn't really doubt that they would find them."

Meanwhile the capsule landed about 260 miles off course and about 20 minutes later than had been planned.

After the delays, it was reported that the crew was safe and the capsule had been found southeast of the Russian city of Orsk.

In an unusual statement to reporters after the landing, Anatoly Perminov, Russian Federal Space Agency chief, seemed to think that the first trip in space where women outnumbered the men was to blame for the problems on the trip home.

"You know in Russia, there are certain bad omens about this sort of thing, but thank God that everything worked out successfully," he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying. "Of course in the future we will work somehow to ensure that the number of women will not surpass the number of men. This isn't discrimination. I'm just saying that when a majority of the crew is female, sometimes certain kinds of unsanctioned behavior or something else occurs, that's what I'm talking about."

Back home in Beaconsfield, Whitson's mother and father heard the quote.

"I think we'll wait until Peggy recovers a bit before we tell Peggy about that quote," her mother said. "We'll let her recover from the trip before we get her blood pressure up."

Interestingly enough the same kind of degraded descent problem happened in October 2007 and in May 2003, without the women crews the Russian space chief was worried about this time.

It was Sunday evening when Whitson called her parents to give them an update. She was still not feeling great as her body readjusted to gravity after the long time in weightlessness and the pounding that the 10g forces on the ride home also brought.

"But she said she was adapting pretty quickly," Beth Whitson reported.

So what will Whitson do now that she's back from her second space station visit and set her records?

Beth Whitson said those assignments haven't been made yet. Whitson's husband Clarence met her in Kazakhstan and is expected to return this weekend to Houston.

There will probably be a stint at public relations where Whitson will share her experiences like she did after her last trip to the space station.

Local folks are looking forward to welcoming her back when she visits Iowa again later on.

There are expeditions planned to the moon and then on Mars in the years ahead.

"I think she may not be young enough when it comes time to go to Mars -- that's a long ways off," Beth Whitson said. "But we'll have to see about the moon. I'm sure Peggy would love to spend some time there too.

"For now, we're just happy she's back," she said, "and we're real proud of her."

MAC elementary welcomes Whitson home with activities
By Alan Smith

Welcome back to Earth activities were held at the Mount Ayr Community elementary school this week to recognize the return to earth of Ringgold county's own astronaut Peggy Whitson.

Talented and Gifted students launched paper rockets and classes competed to answer questions about Whitson's mission to celebrate Whitson's April 19 return from space.

Using an air-pressure-powered unit built by Rick Hawkins, students were able to shoot their paper rockets higher than the 1926 building and across the school yard. TAG classes participated in the design and launch activity.

Classrooms successfully answered "Welcome Home, Peggy" questions for prizes including Expedition 16 tattoos and stickers provided by Peggy Whitson, pictures from NASA and "Explore, Dream, Discover" bookmarks.

The project for prekindergartners was to find two different pictures of Peggy Whitson that they could bring to the TAG room.

Mrs. Jill Weehler's class used the internet to find and print two pictures of Whitson. (Her picture is also on Iowans Read posters around the school, in some of our new text books, in newspapers and in the Mount Ayr Community elementary yearbook insert.)

The kindergarten question was "What is Peggy Whitson's birthday?"

Mrs. Betsy Budach's class was correct. Peggy's birthday is February 9, 1960. (Those who do the math will find she spent her 48th birthday in space.)

The first grade question was "What year did Peggy Whitson graduate from Mount Ayr Community high school?

Mrs. Cheryl Taylor's and Mrs. Cindy Allen's classes correctly identified Whitson's graduation year from MACHS as 1978. (She graduated from Iowa Wesleyan College three years later and earned a doctorate in biochemistry from Rice University in 1985.)

Second graders were asked "How many days total has Peggy Whitson been in space?

Mrs. Karen Taylor's class won with an answer of 377 days. (This is a new record for an American astronaut.)

Third graders were asked to name the number of Roman numerals of the two International Space Station expeditions on which Whitson has served.

Third graders in Mrs. Angi Dodge's and Mrs. Darla Sobotka's room both responded correctly with V and XVI. (Dr. Whitson was selected as the first NASA Space Officer during Expedition 5 in 2002. She just returned from a position as Commander of Expedition 16.)

Fourth graders were asked to find out what an EVA is and how many total Whitson has performed.

Mrs. Deb Lynch's class was the winner. They knew EVA stands for extra-vehicular activity, commonly referred to as space walks. They also found that Peggy has done EVAs a total of six times.

Fifth graders were asked to find out what craft Whitson was aboard for her return to Earth on Saturday.

Mrs. Kemery's classroom submitted the correct response. Peggy Whitson returned to Earth on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. (Whitson also launched from Russia aboard Soyuz TMA-11. The steeper-than-normal landing in Kazakhstan caused several gravitational forces on the crew.)

Sixth graders were asked the following question: "While Peggy Whitson was commander, the size of the ISS was greatly expanded. A connector node, a European laboratory module, a Japanese module and a Canadian robot named Dextre were added. What were the names of the connector node and the two modules?

Mr. Bret Ruggle's students were first to reply with the correct answers. Members of Mrs. Gail Trullinger's class received the consolation prize. Along with the Canadian Space Agency's Dextre robot, Expedition 16 crews added the Harmony connecting node, the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kob logistics pressurized module. (It was definitely an international effort. A total of 16 countries are cooperating to build the ISS as a research station and outpost for future explorations in space.)

Photographs courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcriptions by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Digital Journal
April 21, 2008
By Tim Neale

Peggy Whitson Sets Space Record

Peggy Whitson has completed 192 days on the International Space Station (ISS). In doing so she notched up 377 days in space, setting the record for most time in space for a US astronaut. The previous record of 374 days was held by Michael Foale.

Expedition 16 Commander Whitson, the first female commander of ISS, landed in Kazakhstan on Saturday along with Flight Engineer and Soyuz Commander, Yuri Malenchenko and South Korean So-yeon Yi.

Russian, Yuri Malenchenko has now accumulated 515 days in space during four flights. This is the ninth highest cumulative total for all astronauts. Ms Yi, who was South Korea's first astronaut, had spent 11 days on the ISS. The South Korean government had paid Russia US$20 million to send her there.

The Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft came down more than 250 miles off target and 20 minutes late. Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian federal space agency, said the spacecraft had followed a "ballistic re-entry." Mr. Perminov said that the crew missed the target because they had changed to the back-up landing plan at the last minute without telling mission control.

This kind of re-entry is characterized by an uncontrollable and steep trajectory subjecting the crew to high g-forces. "The main thing is that the crew is alive and healthy," said Mr. Perminov.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

During Expedition XVI, Peggy completed five space walks:

EVA 1 - November 9, 2007 from 09:54 to 16:49, 6 hours, 55 minutes with Yuri Malenchenko. SSPTS cable disconnect and stowage, PMA-2 umbilical stowage, Node 2 umbilical temporarily stowed.

EVA 2 - November 20, 2007 from 10:10 to 17:26, 7 hours, 16 minutes with Daniel M. Tani. External configuration of PMA-1 and Harmony: Fluid, electrical and data line hookups, avionics line hookup, heater cable hookups, fluid tray relocation.

EVA 3 - November 24, 2007 from 9:50 to 16:54, 7 hours 04 minutes with Daniel M. Tani. Completion of fluid, electrical and data line hookups for PMA-2 and Harmony. Loop B fluid tray connection to port side of Destiny; photographic analysis of starboard Solar Alpha Rotary Joint (SARJ) to assist with troubleshooting on the ground; reinstallation of CETA cart from temporary stowage location.

EVA 4 - December 18, 2007 from 09:50 to 16:46, 6 hours, 56 minutes with Daniel M. Tani. Inspection of S4 starboard SARJ and a Beta Gimbal Assembly (BGA). This EVA was the 100th in support of building the International Space Station.

EVA 5 - January 30, 2008 from 09:56 to 17:06, 7 hours and 10 minutes with Daniel M. Tani. Replacement of a Bearing Motor Roll Ring Module (BMRRA) in the S4 starboard Beta Gimbal Assembly (BGA); further inspection of the SARJ.

EVA Milestone On 18 December 2007, during the fourth spacewalk of Expedition 16 to inspect the S4 starboard Solar Alpha Rotary Joint (SARJ), the ground team in Mission Control informed Whitson that she had become the female astronaut with the most cumulative EVA time in NASA history, as well as the most EVAs, with her fifth EVA. Three hours and 37 minutes into the spacewalk, Whitson surpassed NASA astronaut Sunita Williams with a total time at that point of 29 hours and 18 minutes. At the completion of Whitson's fifth EVA, the 100th in support of ISS assembly and maintenance, Whitson's cumulative EVA time became 32 hours, and 36 minutes, which placed her in 20th place for total EVA time.

SOURCE: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expedition_16; photo - NASA
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

  • Return to Dr. Peggy A. Whitson Biography Webpage

  • Peggy's NASA Biography (off IAGenWeb site)

  • Peggy Whitson Inducted into Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame, 2011


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