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State Historical Society of Iowa

Celebrate Iowa Gala to Honor History-Making Iowa NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson

Nov 15, 2017

DES MOINES – Two months ago, ​Iowa native ​and astronaut Peggy Whitson wrapped up a record-breaking mission aboard the International Space Station.

Next month, she will return to her home state to be the guest of honor at the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs' sixth annual Celebrate Iowa Gala at the State Historical Building of Iowa in Des Moines.

"Dr. Whitson has made history not only in Iowa but the entire country, the world and even beyond," said Chris Kramer, acting director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. "Through the years, she has ​remained connected to her roots by ​inspiring Iowans while she was in space and during numerous visits back home, even ​donating artifacts from her ​history-making ​career to the State Historical Building. So while we celebrate several important milestones​ for Iowa's arts and history, we are honored to welcome an Iowan like Peggy back home."

Whitson, Ph.D., is one of America's most celebrated astronauts. Born in Mt. Ayr, Iowa, and raised on a family farm near Beaconsfield, she has spent more time living and working in space than any other American or any woman worldwide -- a staggering 665 days racked up over three different missions aboard the International Space Station.

Her third and most recent mission ended in September when she touched down in Kazakhstan after spending more time (288 days) in orbit during a single spaceflight than any other female astronaut. During her remarkable career, she also smashed a number of other records.

  • She is the first woman to command the space station twice.
  • She has ​completed 10 spacewalks, more than any other woman in the world.
  • She has logged 60 hours and 21 minutes walking in space, more than any woman in the world.
  • She was the first woman to serve as Chief of the Astronaut Corps.
  • Aboard the space station, Whitson performed numerous assembly and maintenance projects, welcomed several space crafts and deliveries of supplies and research materials, and helped conduct hundreds of biology, biotechnology, physical science and earth science experiments.

During the gala, guests will see the flight suit she wore into space in 2002, which is on display in the museum's "Iowa History 101" exhibition.

Whitson will share brief remarks during the event, along with Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, acting director Kramer and master of ceremonies Ed Wilson of WHO-TV.

Guests also will experience some of the best artwork, music, food and drinks that Iowa has to offer. They'll meet famous Iowans in a living wax museum; see performances by Annalibera, the Damani Phillips Trio and Parranderos Latin Combo; and sample a range of specialties, including Iowa's Best Burger of 2017, from Smokin' Hereford BBQ in Storm Lake, and a limited edition Rye-owa Stout, brewed exclusively for the gala by Exile Brewing Co. of Des Moines.

This year's gala culminates a series of programs and celebrations including artwork by Iowa Artist Fellow Brent Holland​ to mark the 50th anniversary of the Iowa Arts Council and the 160th anniversary of the State Historical Society of Iowa. Proceeds from the event support State Historical Society programs and exhibits, funded by the Iowa Historical Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.