Yesterday at 3:20 p.m. EST NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson, Ph.D., along with her Expedition 50/51 crewmates, Russian Cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, 45, and French European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, 38, blasted off into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a 2-day expedition to the International Space Station. At age 56, this will be Peggy’s third long-duration mission aboard the ISS, during which she will make history for the fourth time in her accomplished career.

Peggy, an Iowa native and biochemist, started her Astronaut training in August 1996 and has since spent the last 20 years building an insanely impressive NASA résumé that includes a number of pioneering firsts. She was the first female commander of the International Space Station in 2007, has spent more time space in than any other woman (377 days in space between her two previous ISS missions), and was also the first female, nonmilitary Chief of the Astronaut Office.

When Peggy celebrates her 57th birthday on February 9th while on the International Space Station, she  will become the oldest woman in space.

According to her NASA bio, Peggy’s first two six-month tours of duty aboard the International Space Station were for Expedition 5 in 2002, and as the station commander for Expedition 16 in 2007. She has also performed six spacewalks, totaling 39 hours and 46 minutes.

Lead image via NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson’s Facebook page 

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