Astronaut Peggy Whitson sets another record, draws White House attention

Janie Parker
April 24, 2017

Launched Tuesday from Cape Canaveral, the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship, named in honor of the late astronaut John Glenn, pulled up to within 40 feet of the station and then stood by while Expedition 51 commander Peggy Whitson and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, operating the Canadian arm, locked onto the spacecraft. His widow, Annie, granted permission for Orbital ATK to use his name for the spacecraft.

NASA and the Department of Education, on behalf of the White House, are both mobilized "to encourage classrooms throughout America to tune-in" live, when President Trump calls NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson aboard the International Space Station (ISS) this upcoming Monday, to congratulate her as she breaks the American record for most total days in space, besting NASA astronaut Jeff Williams' record of 534 days.

According to NASA, Whitson already holds the distinction of being the first woman to command the ISS, as well as holding the record for most spacewalks by a female astronaut. He returned to space in 1998 aboard shuttle Discovery, right before station construction began.

"We are very proud to welcome on board the S.S. John Glenn", Pesquet said.

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Whitson will be joined for President Trump's call by NASA astronaut Jack Fischer, who is scheduled to arrive at the orbiting laboratory Thursday, April 20.

Whitson arrived at the space station for her current stint on November 19, 2016, and is due to return to Earth in September. Early Monday, she will surpass the 534-day, two-hour-and-change mark set by astronaut Jeffrey Williams previous year. President Trump and daughter Ivanka plan a congratulatory call to the station later Monday morning.

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