Peggy Whitson in space suit (© AP Images)
Peggy Whitson, the first woman to command the International Space Station, will spend her 57th birthday there. (© AP Images)

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson just became the oldest woman in space, adding to her long list of firsts.

Whitson, 56, lifted off on November 17 for her third trip to the International Space Station.

She launched from Kazakhstan with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, 45, and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, 38, for a six-month mission.

“All right, yes, I’m old,” she said in a NASA interview. She added that space missions get easier when you know what to expect.

She will celebrate her 57th birthday in February on the space station.

One thing she isn’t looking forward to? Space food.

But Pesquet was quick to reassure her. “There will be French food this time,” he assured her, adding that he’ll prepare the New Year’s feast with dishes from top chefs.

Peggy Whitson, Oleg Novitsky and Thomas Pesquet grasping each other's hands (© AP Images)
U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson (left) jokes around with her Russian (center) and French counterparts. (© AP Images)

Whitson was the first woman to serve as commander of the space station in 2007. She also was the first — and so far only — woman to head NASA’s astronaut corps. No other woman has spent more time in space.

“It is a great place to work and live, and I feel really lucky that we are going to be with friends while we’re there,” Whitson said at a November 16 news conference.

Whitson said she’s far from done with space. “In terms of goals for NASA before I die, we need to be living on Mars,” she said. “And I might not live that long, so they better get with it!”