TRUMP CALLS SPACE STATION AS ASTRONAUT SETS RECORD

President Trump called the International Space Station Monday for a videochat watched by thousands of school kids, congratulating commander Peggy Whitson on becoming America’s most experienced astronaut and jokingly promising to get Americans to Mars “during my first term or, at worst, during my second term.”

Joined by astronaut Kate Rubins and daughter Ivanka Trump at the White House, the president said Whitson’s record marked “a very special day in the glorious history of American spaceflight.”

Today, commander Whitson, you have broken the record for the most total time space in space by an American astronaut, 534 days and counting,” he said. “That’s an incredible record to break, and on behalf of our nation and frankly on behalf of the world, I’d like to congratulate you, that is really something. How does it feel to have broken such a big and important record?”

Whitson, making her third spaceflight and second as commander of the space station, said it was “an honor for me to represent all the folks at NASA who make spaceflight possible and who make me setting this record feasible.”

On Monday, around 1:27 a.m. EDT (GMT-5), Whitson became America’s most experienced astronaut when her total time in space moved past Jeff Williams’ mark of 534 days two hours and 48 minutes. When she returns to Earth Sept. 3, her total time in space will stand at 666 days, moving her up to eighth in the world.

The world record is held by cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, who has logged 878 days aloft over five missions. During the interview with the president, a large banner behind Fisher and Whitson said: “Congrats Peggy!! New U.S. High-Time Space Ninja.” Below that a light-hearted warning to Padalka: “Check six Gennady/here she comes.”

Whitson already is the world’s most experienced female spacewalker with 53 hours and 23 minutes of EVA time during eight spacewalks over her three missions. She plans to float outside again on May 12, working with newly arrived crewmate Jack Fischer to carry out a variety of maintenance tasks.

Assuming that spacewalk runs the planned six-and-a-half hours, her total for nine EVAs will be nearly 60 hours, moving her up to third in the world overall behind cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev and former astronaut Mike Lopez-Alegria.

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