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Astronaut Peggy Whitson hangs up her flight suit... on public display

January 10, 2024

— The United States' most experienced astronaut has hung up her flight suit.

Peggy Whitson, who spent 675 days in space over the course of four missions — three for NASA and one commercial — came to Space Center Houston on Monday (Jan. 8) for the reveal of her Axiom Space flight suit as it was placed on public display. She wore the emblem-adorned, blue and black garment as the commander of Ax-2, the second all-private astronaut flight to the International Space Station (ISS), which was organized by Axiom in 2023.

"I am just loaning it so folks can see that commercial space, like Axiom, is in work now and is real," said Whitson, noting that her days of launching into space are not over. "I wanted people to be able to see it and be inspired by not just NASA's space program, but what commercial space is doing as well."

Unlike her NASA-issued, bright blue flight suits, which she primarily wore when flying the agency's training jets and when making public appearances, Whitson donned the Ax-2 suit in space. She and her three Ax-2 crewmates — two representatives of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and an American businessman —were all issued similar garments for their eight days they were on board the space station.

"It's the one I wore to enter the space station," Whitson said in an interview with collectSPACE.

A photo taken of Whitson as she floated aboard shows her clad in her coveralls, her hands reaching out before her as if she was flying like a super hero into what has now become her home away from home. The Ax-2 mission patch adorns her right upper chest flanked by her embroidered name and Axiom's stylized astronaut wings on her left. A U.S. flag patch is attached to her left shoulder.

Axiom's Ax-3 crew, who are scheduled to launch to the space station later this month, have been photographed wearing similar flight suits, although their garments have an additional thick red stripe that runs just below their collar and shoulders. The Axiom wings have also been replaced by embroidered versions of the wings that each crew member has earned from their respective services (the U.S. Navy, Italian Air Force, Turkish Air Force and Swedish Air Force).

"Axiom has partnered with different companies to provide different parts of the uniform that we wear in space, as that's a part of it being a commercial industry," said Whitson. "All the fabrics still have to meet the same NASA certification, so they have to be 100 percent, or very close to 100 percent natural fibers — up to 95 percent natural fibers to reduce flammability."

After Whitson gave a presentation about her history as an astronaut and her most recent trip with Axiom into space, and after she posed for photos with each attendee while standing alongside her suit, Space Center Houston staff moved the space-flown artifact into a display case where it is now part of a gallery devoted to the space station and living and working in Earth orbit.

"I'm excited to see what young people think about it," Whitson told collectSPACE. "To see that there are different ways to make make your way into space is, I think, something that opens up new doors that maybe weren't there before."

As for her own next seat into space, Whitson is not saying. Axiom Space has yet to announce the crew for Ax-4, which is the next possible flight that Whitson could be chosen to lead. But if she is chosen, she probably will not need to pull her flight suit off display.

"Ax-2 was my first [commercial] trip into space but I assume, if I fly again, I will be issued another flight suit. Axiom still has my other Ax-2 suit. This one [on display] is mine," she said.


Astronaut Peggy Whitson poses with the Axiom Ax-2 flight suit that she wore during her first commercial flight aboard the International Space Station in 2023. Whitson has now provided the suit to Space Center Houston for public display. (collectSPACE)

Peggy Whitson's Ax-2 flight suit as seen in the International Space Station Gallery at Space Center Houston. (collectSPACE)

Axiom Space Ax-2 commander Peggy Whitson floats into the International Space Station on May 22, 2023. Whiston has now loaned the flight suit she is seen wearing to Space Center Houston for public display. (NASA)

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