Oldest Spacewoman Records Highest Number of Spacewalks for a Woman

Whitson now also has the most cumulative spacewalking time, beating Williams' record of five hours and 40 minutes.

It's not clear how the 8-kg (18-pound) shield broke free and made a run for it, but the astronauts were able to rectify the situation by fitting a temporary cover over the gap in the docking port - a plan devised by quick-thinking members of the Mission Control team. So, needless to say, the mood at Mission Control was tense.

She arrived at the space station in November, after previously serving on two six-month missions at the orbiting outpost in 2002 and 2008.

Whitson and NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, also on the spacewalk, were tasked with installing four thermal protection shields - large pieces of cloth that protect the ISS from the sun's heat and tiny pieces of space debris.

"During the spacewalk, which lasted just over seven hours, the two astronauts successfully reconnected cables and electrical connections on the Pressurized Mating Adapter-3", NASA wrote in a press release.

FILE - In this Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016 file photo, US astronaut Peggy Whitson, member of the main crew of the expedition to the International Space Station, waves from a bus prior the launch of Soyuz MS-3 spaceship at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Once that work was done, the astronauts returned to PMA-3 and installed a different set of shields around the base of the extension where it connects with Harmony's upper port.

NASA says they'll know well in advance if there's any risk of the object flying back in and colliding with the space station, but at this stage, that's highly unlikely.

The goal of the spacewalk was to adjust a docking port, which will essentially be a parking spot for SpaceX and Boeing commercial crew capsules, the AP reports. The record adds to Whitson's distinction as the oldest and most experienced spacewoman in the world. "That's wonderful", Whitson radioed back to Mission Control, the Associated Press reports. That is more days than any other woman.

Ms. Williams may have a chance to retake her title, as she's slated to return to the ISS next year aboard either SpaceX's Dragon capsule or Boeing's Starliner. NASA is hoping to take advantage of an extra seat in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that's due to launch next month and return in September. We want to hear from you.

  • Carolyn Briggs