Trump calls US astronaut who broke record for time in space

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2017 file photo made available by NASA, astronaut Peggy Whitson, center, floats inside the Quest airlock of the International Space Station with Thomas Pesquet, left, and Shane Kimbrough before their spacewalk. Early Monday, April 24, 2017, the International Space Station commander surpassed the 534-day, two-hour-and-48-minute record set last year by Jeffrey Williams for most accumulated time in orbit by an American. Whitson already was the world’s most experienced spacewoman and female spacewalker and, at age 57, the oldest woman ever in space. (NASA via AP, File)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump made a very long distance phone call to the International Space Station, to congratulate its commander on breaking the record for the most time spent in space of any American astronaut.

The president spoke Monday with Peggy Whitson, commander of the International Space Station, and fellow astronaut Jack Fischer.

Whitson, the first woman to command the International Space Station, surpassed the record of 534 days, two hours and 48 minutes for most accumulated time in orbit by an American. That record was set last year by Jeffrey Williams.

Trump joked that the call was possible because of “great American equipment that works, and that is not easy.”

He said he’s more impressed by the astronauts than by any of the politicians he deals with in Washington.

Trump’s daughter and close adviser, Ivanka Trump, and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, joined him in the Oval Office during the call.

Whitson says it’s a “huge honor to break a record like this,” and that it would not have been possible without the support of NASA.

Last month, Trump signed new legislation adding human exploration of Mars to NASA’s mission.

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

Whitson already was the world’s most experienced spacewoman and female spacewalker and, at 57, the oldest woman in space. By the time she returns to Earth in September, she’ll have logged 666 days in orbit over three flights.

The world record — 879 days — is held by Russian Gennady Padalka.

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Associated Press writers Catherine Lucey and Vivian Salama contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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