President Donald Trump, joined by NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, left, and First Daughter Ivanka Trump, talks with NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer onboard the International Space Station Monday, April 24, 2017 from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. The President congratulated Whitson for breaking the record for cumulative time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut. The President and First Daughter also discussed with the three astronauts what it is like to live and work on the orbiting outpost as well as the importance of STEM.  Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Trump to astronaut: Better you than me
02:03 - Source: CNN

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Peggy Whitson has set the US record for most cumulative days in space

She surpassed astronaut Jeff Williams' record of 534 days

CNN  — 

President Donald Trump congratulated NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson from the Oval Office on Monday on her record-breaking stay aboard the International Space Station.

Early Monday morning, Whitson officially set the US record for most cumulative days in space, surpassing astronaut Jeff Williams’ record of 534 days, according to NASA.

Whitson arrived at the space station for her current stint on November 19, 2016, and is due to return to Earth in September.

Speaking from the Oval Office, Trump, alongside his daughter, Ivanka, and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, spoke via video with Whitson and fellow astronaut Jack Fischer.

“This is a very special day in the glorious history of American spaceflight,” Trump said. “You have broken the record for the most total time spent in space by an American astronaut. That’s an incredible record to break.”

“On behalf of our nation and, frankly, on behalf of our world, I’d like to thank you,” Trump continued.

“It’s actually a huge honor to break a record like this,” Whitson responded. “It’s an honor for me to be representing all the folks at NASA who make space travel possible and make me setting this record feasible.”

Meet the astronaut who just made US space history

Trump, who praised the astronauts as “our finest,” jokingly expressed a preference for the space travelers over politicians.

“I’ve been dealing with politicians so much,” Trump said. “I’m so much more impressed with these people.”

The pair also discussed future travel to Mars, which is still decades away from happening.

“Getting there will require some international cooperation,” Whitson said. “Just because it is a very expensive endeavor. But it is so worthwhile doing.”

“We want to do that during my first term or, at worst, my second,” Trump joked. “We’ll have to speed that up a little, OK?”

Informed of an experiment aboard the space station to convert urine to water – which the astronauts have drunk, saying “it’s really not as bad as it sounds” – Trump quipped, “Well, that’s good. I’m glad to hear that. Better you than me.”

Whitson is the first woman to command the space station; she has commanded it twice. Her first stint as commander was in April 2008 and she’s commanding the current crew.

She also holds the record for most spacewalks by a female astronaut. Whitson took her eighth spacewalk in March.

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson works outside the international space station during a spacewalk in January 2017.

CNN’s David Siegel contributed to this report.