Astronaut from Iowa shares her experiences with NASA - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Astronaut from Iowa shares her experiences with NASA

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MARION (KWWL) -

Peggy Whitson grew up in Iowa. After graduate school she got a job with NASA.

"I've never had a real job because I've always done what I wanted, which is work for NASA," said Whitson.

Whitson went on her first space mission in 2002. She's one of just 55 women who have flown in space.

"In the astronaut office, you have to prove that you're competent at the job," said Whitson. "It doesn't matter what color or sex or anything you are, you have to be able to do the job."

The astronaut has made two long duration missions and has spent more than a year living on the International Space Station.

"It's very special to get the opportunity to actually live there, to become adapted to it, to feel comfortable moving around in it and figuring out how to work in it," said Whitson.

Whitson returned to her home state Sunday to dedicate an exhibit at Summit Pointe Senior Living Community in mMrion, honoring 50 years of women in space. Helping her was Jim Westcot, a Cedar Rapids native who worked at Collins Radio Company when they designed communication technology for NASA during the Apollo program.

"Everything had to work perfectly," said Westcot. "That's the reason we worked so hard."

Two years ago, NASA made a transition in its space program. The shuttle program ended. Whitson was Chief of the Astronaut Office at the time. She was the first woman and non-military person in the position and helped lead the transition in the astronaut program.

"It was very challenging and trying to communicate what you did know was very important," said Whitson.

Right now, Whitson is helping develop different training for astronauts. She says training for a space station mission takes two and a half years.

NASA continues to take part in International Space Station missions and is working on programs to change the way space exploration is done in the future.

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