NASA Administration Names Whitson First NASA ISS Science Off

by Johnson Space Center

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Research aboard the International Space Station (ISS) is getting a boost. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe today named Dr. Peggy Whitson the first NASA ISS Science Officer.

In making the announcement, Administrator O'Keefe noted that with the space station nearing its second year with a permanent crew living on board, it's time to increase emphasis on the orbiting outpost's main mission -- research. Dr. Whitson, who has a doctorate in biochemistry from Rice University in Houston, became the station's first resident scientist when she arrived at the ISS June 7, 2002, as an Expedition 5 Flight Engineer.

"Dr. Peggy Whitson is an obvious choice for NASA's first ISS Science Officer," said Administrator O'Keefe. "In addition to a doctorate in biochemistry, she is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships. Before her selection as an astronaut, Dr. Whitson's NASA career included time spent as a researcher. She helped develop experiments to fly on the space shuttle, served as the project scientist for the Shuttle-Mir program and was the co-chair of the U.S.-Russian Mission Science Working Group.

"Dr. Whitson has dedicated her career to the pursuit of scientific knowledge, and she recognizes that some of the problems we face today here on Earth have answers that will be discovered in future activities on the International Space Station," added Administrator O'Keefe.

The NASA ISS Science Officer is a new duty assignment that will be made for a NASA astronaut on each ISS Expedition Crew. For now, the Science Officer will focus on U.S. research conducted aboard ISS. NASA will explore with its 15 international partners the potential to expand the Science Officer role as the station's research capabilities are increased.

The NASA ISS Science Officer will work with the U.S. research community to understand and meet the requirements and objectives of each ISS experiment. This will help achieve maximum scientific research returns. The Science Officer will continue to be the point-of-contact for the ISS crew with NASA-sponsored principal investigators as well as payload developers, integrators and trainers.

Dr. Whitson's Science Officer duties will continue when she returns to Earth for those experiments conducted during Expedition 5. Her post-flight responsibilities include participation in "debriefs" with NASA principal investigators and active collaboration with their analysis of experimental observations. Dr. Whitson will also communicate to the public her experiences as a researcher in space.