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Girls & Women

Female Astronaut Peggy Whitson Just Shattered a Record Held by Men


Was that sound a woman breaking through the glass ceiling, or merely the Earth's atmosphere?

It turns it out NASA astronaut and science superstar Peggy Whitson, 56, may have done both. 

Whitson broke the NASA record today, previously held by a male astronaut, for most time spent in space on her third tour of duty at the International Space Station.

As of 1:27 a.m. EST, Whitson had spent a total of 534 days, 2 hours, and 49 minutes, blowing past the record held by Jeff Williams, who only had 534 days, 2 hours, and a mere 48 minutes floating out there in the land of E.T.

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But for Whitson, it’s just one more record to add to her entry in the space history books. She is also the first woman to command the International Space Station twice, the oldest woman to fly in space for NASA, and the world’s most experienced female spacewalker. She also was the in charge of  NASA's astronaut office and the first female commander of the Space Station during her 2008 trip to orbit.

"It is one of those rides that you hope never ends," Whitson said in a tweet posted the day before she broke the record. "I am so grateful for all those who helped me on each of my missions!”

Whitson previously flew to the space station in 2002 and 2008.

President Donald Trump called Whitson from Earth this morning to congratulate her on her accomplishment.

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“Today, commander Whitson, you have broken the record for the most total time space in space by an American astronaut, 534 days and counting,” Trump said. “That’s an incredible record to break, and on behalf of our nation and frankly on behalf of the world, I’d like to congratulate you, that is really something. How does it feel to have broken such a big and important record?”

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Whitson said that it was “an honor for me to represent all the folks at NASA who make spaceflight possible and who make me setting this record feasible,” according to CBS News.

Then the pair joked about how Trump hoped NASA could speed up its timeline for a trip to Mars from more than a decade away to within his first or second presidential term, and Whitson told him that the space station experiment to convert urine to water was “really not as bad as it sounds.”

"Well, that's good. I'm glad to hear that. Better you than me,” Trump said.

The record-breaking space explorer will stay at the space station until September, when she’ll have accumulated 650 days in space.