International Space Station (ISS) astronaut Peggy Whitson has officially broken the record for the most consecutive days in space and received a congratulatory call from President Trump early Monday morning to mark the occasion.
Fellow ISS astronaut Jack Fischer participated in the call alongside Whitson.
As of 1:27 AM EDT on Monday, April 24, Whitson exceeded the previous record of 534 consecutive days in space set by astronaut Jeff Williams.
Whitson, who has been on board the ISS since November 2016, is also commanding the space station for the second time. She first served as its commander in April 2008.
Having done her eighth spacewalk in March, she also holds the record for the most spacewalks by a woman astronaut.
“This is a very special day in the glorious history of American spaceflight,” Trump said to Whitson. “You have broken the record for the most total time spent in space by an American astronaut. That’s an incredible record to break. On behalf of our nation, and, frankly, on behalf of our world, I’d like to thank you.”
Also on the video phone call from the Oval Office were astronaut Kate Rubins and Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump.
The latter praised Whitson, a biochemist, and Rubins, a biologist who studies cancer, as examples of accomplished women in science and math.
In response to a question about what the astronauts are learning in space, Whitson noted the scarcity of water and described an experiment in which urine is converted to drinking water.
“It’s really not as bad as it sounds,” she told the president, who responded, “Better you than me.”
Fischer described the experiments on board the ISS as “by far the best example of international cooperation and what we can do when we work together, in the history of humanity.”
Whitson, who said she was inspired to become an astronaut by NASA’s Apollo program, also joined the president in discussing the goal of sending astronauts to Mars.
“Getting there will require some international cooperation,” Whitson stated. “Just because it is a very expensive endeavor. But it is so worthwhile doing.”
In response, Trump joked that he wants to see humans on Mars by the end of his second term at the latest.
Current NASA plans anticipate the first crewed missions to Mars will take place sometime during the 2030s.