The American Space Ninja

Do you know who Peggy Whitson is and if not, why not? Seriously, Peggy Whitson is a real American hero and really should be a household name but I’m betting more people can identify Anthony Wiener, or at least parts of Anthony Wiener, than could pick Peggy Whitson out of a police line-up.

For the record Peggy Whitson is an astronaut. In fact, Peggy Whitson is an astronaut the way Joe Montana was a quarterback or Humphrey Bogart was actor. Peggy Whitson has spent more time in space than any other American, has walked in space 10 times (more than any other woman) and has been commander of the International Space Station…twice.

There is something fundamentally wrong with our priorities when Madonna got more press this week for talking about moving to Portugal than Whitson got for returning to earth after breaking the American space flight record. Now that I think about it, the fact that we even know who Madonna is reflects poorly on our national priorities.

To be honest until last week if you asked me to name an American astronaut I would have probably mentioned John Glenn, Alan Shepard or Neil Armstrong. If you asked me to name a woman astronaut, I would have said Sally Ride or…well… I would have said Sally Ride.

Sally Ride spent about two weeks in space, John Glenn made space history in just over a week, and Alan Shepard’s first American space flight lasted about 15 minutes. Whitson was in space for an impressive 665 days, that works out to….let’s see…carry the two…a long freakin’ time. According to my handy calculator that means she was in space for 95 weeks, almost 22 months and two NFL seasons!

Whitson, who is known as the American Space Ninja, returned to earth on after a 3-hour ride in a Russian re-entry capsule that plummeted through the atmosphere and landed under a giant parachute on a grassy plain in rural Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is, to quote Forrest Gump (and you should always quote Forrest Gump), “…this whole other country” that is a former Soviet Republic and not a factor in other historic American space events.

All week following her epic return to earth after what is almost certainly her last trip to space the American Space Ninja’s story was worth 90 seconds on the evening news on Monday with no guest appearances on late night talk shows and she certainly didn’t get the tickertape parade that John Glenn received after his record breaking flight of less than five hours.

Sadly, Miley Cyrus appeared on my TV dozens of time this week advertising her return as a judge on a popular TV show. Cyrus, a former Disney TV star turned twerking pansexual malcontent, has racked up over an hour of major network screen time in commercials since the last mention of the American Space Ninja. That’s a serious indictment of our news media and, sadly of us.

A 57-year-old woman who also happens to be a renowned biochemist, commander of the International Space Station, a veteran of 10 space walks and 665 days in space returns to earth in a controlled crash of a Russian space capsule and she gets a quick mention on the evening news. If a 57-year-old John Elway were to strap on his shoulder pads and play one down as the quarterback in this weekend’s game they’d probably make a movie about him.

I’m not trying to say that the NFL is less important that NASA, I’m no commie jihadist, I love football. My point is that the media is robbing us of actual news, not because they pamper or pick on my favorite politician, that’s all part of the show, but because they yammer on about meaningless gibberish instead of reporting landmark historical events with the proper time and attention they deserve.

When I was a kid they stopped everything in school so we could watch every “blast-off” and “splashdown” on the network news because it was historic and newsworthy. For too long we’ve been fed supermarket tabloid junk relabeled as news and, like the frog being slowly boiled, we’ve come to accept it as real news.

Fake news has nothing to do with politics, it’s all about ratings and money. They give us opinionated tabloid crap instead of telling us about the American Space Ninja because they think its what we want. Peggy Whitson is a modern day American hero and that’s real news.

Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist. He may be reached at


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