"Having three more months to squeeze is just what I would wish for", she added. If Whitson were to leave with her Expedition 50/51 crewmates, the space station would be left with only five inhabitants instead of the usual six.
A question of extending the stay of NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson on board the International Space Station (ISS) for another 3.5 months is nearly solved, Russia's space corporation Roscosmos head Igor Komarov told Sputnik on Tuesday. Whitson will take that seat when she returns to Earth with Yurchikhin and Fischer on September 3. International Space Station has been commanded by her twice.
According to NASA, extending her stay will allow for additional time to conduct experiments on board the station. Peggy Whitson is quietly approaching her 535th day spent in her career in space. That will enable continued research operations in the USA segment of the lab that otherwise would have been curtailed if just one astronaut was available.
In this January 13, 2017 photo made available by NASA, astronaut Peggy Whitson, center, floats inside the Quest airlock of the International Space Station with Thomas Pesquet, left, and Shane Kimbrough before their spacewalk.
Peggy Whitson broke the previous record held by NASA astronaut Sunita Williams of 50 hours and 40 minutes.
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Rather than returning to Earth with her Expedition 51 crew mates Oleg Novitsky of Roscosmos and Thomas Pesquet of 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 in September.
Russia is open to extending its partnership in the International Space Station with the United States, Europe, Japan and Canada beyond the now planned end of the program in 2024, the head of the Russian space agency said on Tuesday.
The extension was possible because Roscosmos has temporarily reduced its ISS crew contribution to two cosmonauts, freeing up a seat on the Soyuz capsule that brings them back to Earth. "By extending the stay of one of NASA's most veteran astronauts, our research, our technology development, our commercial and our global partner communities will all benefit".
"Peggy's skill and experience makes her an incredible asset aboard the space station", said Kirk Shireman, NASA's International Space Station Programme Manager.
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