Tani isn't surprised that Whitson was tagged to be the first woman to command the space station. "The amount she knows about the station and its operation blows me away. Her ability, her leadership and management skills always amaze me. I can't wait to get up there and work with her on the station."
Space station commanders have nearly all been male, going back to the earliest American or Soviet stations in the early 1970s. NASA has had only one female commander before -- astronaut Eileen Collins, now retired from the agency, who was in charge of two space shuttle missions.
Whitson said she is little uncomfortable with all the attention placed on her role as the first woman in charge -- she wants the spotlight to shine on the space station. "I think the legacy of the space station will be that it is an international project and that we have built it with 16 different counties in a peaceful way".
So what did Whitson have to leave behind on Earth? Shoes.
Pam Melroy said her colleague is known for having the cutest shoes. Whitson said she wore high heels to work, "and they really don't like me walking in the simulators in high heels."
She does miss what she left behind in her closet at home. "We tend to have blue T-shirts and blue pants and it gets a little old," she said of daily space station attire. "When I came back I said I was never going to wear navy blue again, and here I am."
Back in space, wearing navy blue, flying on the International Space Station. Now, however, she is the boss.