President Trump congratulates record-breaking astronaut

Feng Xue
By Feng Xue
April 24, 2017USshare

President Trump congratulated astronaut Dr. Peggy Whitson for her record-breaking time spent in space on a video link between the White House and the International Space Station, which was also broadcast live across the country.

“Today, Commander Whitson, you have broken the record for the most total time spent in space by an American astronaut—534 days and counting,” Trump told the ISS commander. “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.”

Whitson has broken numerous records.

In 2008 she became the first woman to command the ISS, and on Feb. 9, the first to command it twice. She also holds the record for the most spacewalks by a female astronaut.

When Whitson returns to Earth on Sept. 3, she will have spent 666 days in orbit. Only six Russian astronauts have logged more time.

“Well, it’s actually a huge honor to break a record like this, but it’s an honor for me basically to be representing all the folks at NASA who make this spaceflight possible and who make me setting this record feasible,” said Commander Whitson.

Whitson told the president that everyone at NASA was excited by the bill he signed in late March providing funding for missions to Mars in 2030.

President Trump asked what America was learning from having astronauts in space.

Commander Whitson replied, “I think probably the International Space Station is providing a key bridge from us living on Earth to going somewhere into deep space.”

She explained that ISS scientists were studying the effects of microgravity on the human body, to prepare for the missions to Mars.

Also for the Mars mission, she explained, NASA would need to to be able to “close the life support system” on a multiyear Mars mission.

She explained how solar cells were producing electricity to split water into its component parts, hydrogen and oxygen, and how their CO2 emissions could be recombined with the hydrogen to make water again.

The president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump spoke with Dr. Whitson about the need to inspire girls to pursue education in STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“For me, it was actually the Apollo program that was my inspiration, and that was when it became a dream to become an astronaut,” Whitson told Ivanka Trump.

“I don’t really think it became a goal until I graduated from high school, when the first female astronauts were selected,” she said.

Those first astronauts, she explained, were her role models.

“We are absolutely ready to go to Mars. It’s going to be a fantastic journey getting there, and very exciting times, and all of us would be happy to go,” Whitson concluded.

“I want all the young people out there to recognize that the real steps are going to be taken in a few years.  And so by studying math, science, engineering, any kind of technology, you’re going to have a part in that, and that will be very exciting,” she said.

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