Trump talks about Mars mission on call
with record-breaking astronaut
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[April 25, 2017]
By Irene Klotz
(Reuters) - U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson
broke the 534-day U.S. record for cumulative time in space on Monday and
marked the occasion by speaking with President Donald Trump about plans
for human trips to Mars.
Whitson, 57, turned a zero-gravity summersault during the video call
from the International Space Station, where she serves as station
commander. She is midway through a planned 9-1/2-month mission.
By the time Whitson returns to Earth on Sept. 3, she will have racked up
a career total 666 days in orbit. Only six Russian men have logged more
"What an amazing thing you've done," said Trump, speaking from the Oval
Office on his first call with an astronaut serving aboard the $100
billion orbital outpost.
"It's a huge honor to break a record like this," Whitson said with a
beaming smile. "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."
Whitson, a soft-spoken Iowa native, also holds the record for the most
time spent spacewalking by a woman. In 2008, she became the first woman
to command the space station about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.
She and newly arrived rookie crewmate Jack Fischer, 43, both spoke with
the president, who was joined on the call by his daughter Ivanka Trump
and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins.
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.
"Well, we want to try to do that during my first term, or at worst
during my second term, so we’ll have to speed that up a little bit, OK?
" Trump quipped.
[to top of second column]
President Donald Trump
and his daughter Ivanka hold a video conference call with Commander
Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA on the
International Space Station from the Oval Office of the White House
in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
"We'll do our best,” Whitson said.
Whitson, who holds a doctorate in biochemistry, grew up on a farm
and enjoys gardening. She said she was inspired by the U.S. Apollo
program that first brought man to the moon, but it was not until
later, when the first women become astronauts, that she set her
sights on joining them.
She joined the U.S. astronaut corps in 1996, becoming the space
station's first dedicated science officer six years later. Her
current and third mission began on Nov. 17, 2016.
While she has surpassed the 534-day career record of U.S. astronaut
Jeff Williams, Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka is the world
record-holder with 878 days in orbit.
A banner flying behind her read: "Congrats Peggy!! New U.S.
high-time space ninja."
(Irene Klotz in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Editing by Letitia Stein and
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