Astronaut Peggy Whitson inspires at alma mater

The Iowa Wesleyan alumna was invited to celebrate her journey to space with colleagues Wednesday/KTVO

Record-breaking astronaut Peggy Whitson returned to her alma mater Wednesday.

The Mount Ayr native was asked to speak during Iowa Wesleyan University's Founders Day Celebration.

"All of life's experiences make us who we are," she said.

For Whitson, 58, it was experiencing the first moon landing at age 9.

"I'm not sure that a nine-year-old can really grasp the significance of an event that defined an entire generation but for me, I took away that experience and it grew inside me," Whitson said.

And then when her high school graduation came around...

"That was the year NASA picked the first female astronauts and so I think in my mind, that was the time when the dream became a reality," she said.

A reality indeed. In September, Whitson returned to earth from a record-breaking flight of 665 days in space.

University President Dr. Steven Titus added to her list of records Wednesday, saying she's the only woman to command the International Space Station twice, and she's the record holder for the greatest number of space walks by a woman.

Whitson told colleagues Wednesday that life's experiences can have really positive effects, while other experiences aren't as optimal. That includes ten years of rejection letters from NASA's astronaut program.

"It's much easier to look at those ten years and think of them as training and exposure and the really unique work that I was able to do and to learn from," Whitson said. "At the time of course I thought it sucked."

After her founders day speech Wednesday morning, Whitson spoke to an assembly of high school students.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off