World's oldest spacewoman sets spacewalking record

Spacewalking astronauts have lost an important piece of shielding needed for the International Space Station.

Whitson, who at 57 is NASA's oldest female astronaut, has served as the International Space Station's first female commander, logged more than a year of her life in orbit during her 19-year-long career and spent dozens of hours walking in space. Whitson's spacewalk today will last about six and a half hours, not only pushing her past Williams' record for most time logged, but making her the third most experienced spacewalker of all time, only behind Anatoly Solovyev (68 hours) and former astronaut Mike Lopez-Alegria (67 hours). A new docking adapter will be installed on PMA-3 next year to make it compatible with spaceships in development by Boeing and SpaceX to ferry crews to and from the space station.

The world's oldest and most experienced spacewoman has just set another record, this time for spacewalking. She is America's most experienced female astronaut, veteran of two long-duration stays aboard the station in 2002 and 2007-08 totaling almost 377 days aloft.

The duo will reconnect cables on Pressurized Mating Adapter No. 3, which was robotically relocated Sunday from a port on the station's Tranquility module to a location on the Harmony module. Whitson departed for her third space station trip in November to set up a docking port for commercial crew ships being developed by Boeing and SpaceX.

Midway through Thursday's spacewalk, Whitson will surpass the current record for women of 50 hours and 40 minutes of total accumulated spacewalking time. But mission managers are debating the possibility of keeping Whitson in orbit until September to maximize research time. On Thursday, March 30, 2017, Whitson set a record for the most spacewalks by a woman, eight, as she works on preparations for a new docking port on the ISS.

  • Carolyn Briggs