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Astronaut breaks US space record, gets call from Trump

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Astronaut Peggy Whitson broke the U.S. record Monday for most time in space and talked up Mars during a congratulatory call from President Donald Trump.

The International Space Station’s commander surpassed the record of 534 days, two hours and 48 minutes for most accumulated time in space by an American.

“This is a very special day in the glorious history of American spaceflight,” Trump said. His daughter and close adviser, Ivanka Trump, also offered congratulations to Whitson from the Oval Office.

Whitson said it’s “a huge honor” to break such a record. “It’s an exciting time” as NASA prepares for human expeditions to Mars in the 2030s, included in new legislation signed by Trump last month. She called the space station “a key bridge” between living on Earth and traveling into deep space, and she singled out the station’s recycling system that transforms astronauts’ urine into drinking water.

“It’s really not as bad as it sounds,” she assured the president.

“Well, that’s good, I’m glad to hear that,” he replied. “Better you than me.”

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. Whitson broke the NASA cumulative record set last year by astronaut Jeffrey Williams; Scott Kelly holds the U.S. record for consecutive days in space — 340.