Astronaut breaks US space record, gets call from Trump

President Trump on Monday turned his attention to outer space - speaking with the astronaut who broke the U.S. record for the longest stint in orbit and predicting that humans would visit Mars during his second term.

Whitson now holds the record for most non-consecutive days spent in space by an American. Her total time will surpass 650 days when she concludes her mission in September.

The world record for most time in space, 879 days, is held by Russian Gennady Padalka, the AP reported.

The rest of their conversation was pleasant: "This is a very special day in the glorious history of American spaceflight", Trump said.

In March, she seized the record for most spacewalks by a female. "So we'll have to speed that up a little bit", he said in a video conference with two NASA astronauts at the International Space Station from his Oval Office.

Whitson replied that it is an "honor ... to be representing all the folks at NASA who make the spaceflight possible". When Whitson arrived at the ISS for her current stay, she became the first female to command the station twice.

"That's about as fast as I've ever heard, I wouldn't want to fly 17,000 miles an hour but that's what you have to do". But the president, undeterred, said later in the call that such a mission could take place "a lot sooner than we're even thinking".

Peggy Whitson has spent forever in space w/ ppl she hardly knows, 1 tiny impact frm death.

Trump, who has proposed keeping the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's annual $19.5 billion budget roughly unchanged next fiscal year, asked about plans for human trips to Mars, tentatively to start in the 2030s.

8-year-old Samuel Macias said, "Now I want to be an astronaut when I grow up!"

Whitson said she's excited about the new legislation and said there is equipment being made now in preparation for the launch.

"But water is such a precious resource up here that we also are cleaning up our urine and making it drinkable", Whitson said. "This new record for science shows the crew is spending more time using the Station for its intended objective as a weightless space laboratory", the ESA says. Her 192 days in space on that mission included her first five spacewalks.

  • Carolyn Briggs