President Donald Trump called NASA astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) Monday to congratulate them for breaking a record.
The president called Commander Peggy Whitson to congratulate her for breaking the previous NASA record of 534 days in orbit over her entire career as an astronaut. Trump also confirmed his support for the space agency’s plans to send astronauts to Mars in 2033.
“First I want to say that this is a very special day in the glorious history of America’s spaceflight, ” Trump told Whiteson. “Today commander Whitson, you have broken the record for the most total time spent in space by an American astronaut. 534 days and counting. That’s an incredible record to break. On behalf of our nation and frankly on behalf of the world I’d like to congratulate you. That is really something.”
Trump asked Whitson what she thought of the Mars mission, which she dubbed a “very expensive endeavor, but worthwhile doing.” Trump pledged to help speed up development on the rocket, which will take NASA to Mars, stating that it would be finished early in his second term as president.
Whitson told Trump that she was “excited about the missions to Mars in the 2030s.” Trump signed legislation in March authorizing NASA to send humans to Mars in 16 years. Whitson confirmed that she was “ready to go to Mars” and that students watching should study science and math if they want to go as well.
Whitson became the first woman to command the ISS in 2008. She also holds the NASA record for most spacewalks by a woman. This is her third long-duration stay on the space station.
Thirteen Russians have spent more time in space than Whitson, with the world record of 879 days in space currently held by Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka.
NASA has not launched an astronaut into space without the help of the Russians for the last five years, forcing the U.S. to pay Russia $71 million dollars per astronaut lifted to the ISS. Russia has repeatedly threatened to block American access to the $150 billion station in response to U.S. sanctions. America paid for 84 percent of the costs associated with building the ISS.
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