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Peggy Whitson breaks record for most spacewalks by a woman; gets ISS stay extension


US astronaut Peggy Whitson has etched for herself a place in space history books by establishing a new record for most spacewalks by a woman.

The previous record was held by American astronaut Sunita Williams. Whitson, 57, recently made her eight career spacewalk when she floated outside the International Space Station to prep the ISS for a new generation of space taxis ferrying astronauts to the station in near future. The goal of the spacewalk was to continue upgrading the ISS for the arrival of commercial spaceships in the years to come.

Just days after this record breaking spacewalk, NASA has inked a deal with Russian space agency Roscosmos to extend Whitson’s stay on the ISS for three more months into Expedition 52.

Whitson was launched into space on November 17 with 377 days in space already under her belt, and on April 24 will break Jeff Williams’ standing US record of 534 cumulative days in space. In 2008, Whitson became the first woman to command the space station, and on April 9 will become the first woman to command it twice. In addition, she holds the record for most spacewalks by a female.

Rather than returning to Earth with her Expedition 51 crew mates Oleg Novitsky of Roscosmos and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency), in June as originally planned, Whitson will remain on the space station and return home with NASA’s Jack Fischer and Roscosmos’ Fyodor Yurchikhin.

“This is great news,” Whitson said. “I love being up here. Living and working aboard the space station is where I feel like I make the greatest contribution, so I am constantly trying to squeeze every drop out of my time here. Having three more months to squeeze is just what I would wish for.”