President Donald Trump congratulated NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson as she broke a record for being the U.S. astronaut who has spent the most time in orbit.
Whitson, who’s lived more than a year and a half at the International Space Station has set the U.S. record for most cumulative days in space, beating Jeff Williams’ of 534 days. She arrived at the ISS on November 19, 2016, and is scheduled to return to Earth in September this year.
Trump congratulates Whitson and asks to speed up sending humans to Mars
Speaking from the Oval Office, President Trump, along with his daughter Ivanka and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, talked to Whitson and fellow astronaut Jack Fischer via video.
Trump thanked Whitson on behalf of the nation and the world, and Whitson said that she was honored to break such a record and that she’s honored to represent all the people at NASA who made space travel possible. Trump joked around with Whitson and said that he preferred astronauts over politicians.
Trump also discussed future travels to Mars with the astronauts; a feat he hopes will be accomplished during his time in office. Whitson told him that getting to Mars will require some international cooperation, as it is an expensive endeavor, although worthwhile. The President replied that he wanted the endeavor to be done during his first, or “at worst,” his second period, so it should speed up a little.
“I’ve been dealing with politicians so much,” said Trump. “I’m so much more impressed with these people.”
Last month, Trump signed legislation authorizing $19.5 billion in funding for NASA to speed up its process to send humans to Mars. However, NASA estimates that humans will be able to go to Mars by the 2030s.
Trump about Whitson drinking her own urine: ‘Better you than me’
Trump then was informed of an experiment aboard the ISS to convert urine into water. The astronauts have to drink such water, and when Trump asked Whitson about it, she reassured him that it wasn’t as bad as it sounded.
“Well, that’s good. I’m glad to hear it,” replied Trump. “Better you than me.”
Whitson is the first woman ever to command the space station, and she’s commanded it twice. She first commanded the crew in April 2008, and she’s currently commanding the crew of Expedition 51. She became commander of Expedition 51 on April 10 when previous commander astronaut Shane Kimbrough departed back to Earth and handed her command of the space station.
Whitson also holds the record for most spacewalks conducted by a female NASA astronaut. She took her eighth spacewalk on March 30, breaking Sunita Williams’s previous record. Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka holds the world record for most time spent in space, with 879 days.