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NASA Astronaut to Speak at Buena Vista University

Monday, August 31, 2009

Peggy Whitson
STORM LAKE -- NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson, the first female commander of the International Space Station (ISS), will be at Buena Vista University (BVU) on Tuesday, Sept. 8 for a lecture in the Academic and Cultural Events Series (ACES). The program is tentatively scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in Anderson Auditorium, which is located in the Harold Walter Siebens School of Business/Siebens Forum. The event is open to the public free of charge. Dr. Whitson, a native of Beaconsfield, Iowa, included a BVU science banner in the artifacts she was allowed to take to the ISS on Expedition 16. She launched to the ISS aboard a Soyuz rocket in October 2007 and returned in April 2008, logging a total of 192 days in space and conducting five spacewalks on the mission. The banner was returned to BVU about a year ago and will be displayed on the stage at her lecture. Whitson, an advocate of science and science education, is an aunt of Christopher Whitson, a 2008 BVU graduate from Mount Ayr. Chris is currently a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marines stationed in Quantico, Virginia.

The story of how the BVU science banner hitched a ride on the ISS started in the fall 2006 semester when Chris advised Ben Donath, associate professor of mathematics and dean of the School of Science, that his aunt would be going to the space station and offered to take along a lightweight artifact from BVU. Donath suggested sending a banner because it would be light, but large enough to be later displayed prominently in the Estelle Siebens Science Center. University Marketing and Communications designed the 3 by 5 foot cloth banner, which bears an image of earth as seen from outer space, and features the BVU logo and the words "School of Science." The banner weighs 155 grams.

Dr. Whitson, who was selected for NASA's astronaut program in 1996, served as the flight engineer on ISS Expedition 5, which launched in June 2002 and returned to earth that December. She also trained as the backup commander for Expedition 14. On Expeditions 5 and 16 she accumulated 377 days in space, the most for any U.S. astronaut and 20th among all space veterans. A graduate of Mount Ayr High School, she earned her bachelor of science in biology/chemistry from Iowa Wesleyan College in 1981 and her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Rice University in 1985.

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