NASA's Peggy Whitson, who is the U.S. astronaut that has spent the most time in space, is preparing to hand over command of the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) The most experienced U.S. astronaut in terms of time spent in space, NASA's Peggy Whitson, is preparing to hand over command of the International Space Station on Thursday. In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, Whitson spoke about the challenges of life in Space and on Earth. When asked about the possibility that the U.S. could withdraw from the Paris climate accord, Whitson said, "We also, I think, from our perspective, have an incredible view of how thin our atmosphere is that protects our planet. It gives you a real appreciation for how fragile our planet looks and how much we need to take care of it." Maintaining close ties with her Russian colleagues as U.S.-Russia relations come under scrutiny back on Earth, Whitson said the crew avoided discussions on politics all together. "Our objective is the International Space Station. I think all of us recognize that talking earthly politics may not be the most constructive way to pass the time and so actually we don't talk about it a lot," Whitson said. By the time Whitson returns to Earth on Sept. 3, she will have racked up a career total 666 days in orbit - a record for an American astronaut. Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, with 878 days in orbit, is the world's most experienced space flier. Whitson, who holds a doctorate in biochemistry, grew up on a farm in Iowa and enjoys gardening. She said she was inspired by the U.S. Apollo program that first brought man to the moon, but it was not until later, when the first women become astronauts, that she set her sights on joining them.