Dr. Peggy Whitson’s 37-year aerospace career has been filled with a roster of firsts: the first female commander of the International Space Station, the first female chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office, the first International Space Station science officer, the first woman to complete 10 space walks, and more recently with Axiom, the first woman to command a private space mission.
That accolade elevates her to yet another record: She’s the only American astronaut – male or female – to log 675 days in space, an endurance breakthrough.
What might come as a surprise is that despite these achievements, she didn’t actually make her space flight debut until the age of 42.
When she earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry, Dr. Whitson applied to NASA’s astronaut training program four times over nine years and was rejected. After her fifth time applying, she finally made it.
“I never let rejection hold me back,” she wrote in March. “Instead, I used the time to explore opportunities to strengthen my skills and grow.”
Dr. Whitson was honored in the innovation category of Forbes and Know Your Value’s third annual “50 Over 50” U.S. list, which came out on Aug. 1. The list spotlights dynamic women over the age of 50 who have achieved significant success later in life, often by overcoming formidable odds or barriers.
“Looking back now, I can say it was those 10 years that made me qualified to have the experiences and be ready to be selected as the first female commander of the ISS, to be selected as the first female and non-military chief of the astronaut office,” Dr. Whitson recently told Forbes and Know Your Value. “All of these things were because of the teamwork, the leadership experiences that I gained during those 10 years of not being selected.”
Dr. Whitson Today has since retired from NASA and is now director of human spaceflight at Axiom Space, where she is laying the groundwork to build the world’s first commercial space station.
While the purpose…