Trump Welcomes Whitson, Fischer Home by Phone

Trump Welcomes Whitson, Fischer Home by Phone

President Trump had a phone call with NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer to welcome them home yesterday.  The two landed in Kazakhstan on Saturday night and flew back to Houston via Cologne, Germany.   He congratulated them and called the record-breaking Whitson an “inspiration to us all.”

ISS astronauts (L-R) Peggy Whitson (NASA), Fyodor Yurchikhin (Roscosmos) and Jack Fischer (NASA) after landing in their Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft in Kazakhstan, September 2, 2017 EDT. Photo credit: NASA

This was the President’s second phone call with the duo.  He first spoke with them on April 24 when they were aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Whitson broke the record for the most cumulative time in space for a U.S. astronaut that day — 534 days.  The new record, which she set on Saturday at the conclusion of this spaceflight, is 665 days. She accumulated that time over her three missions to the ISS in 2002, 2007-8, and this one, which began on November 17, 2016. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly still holds the U.S. record for continuous time in space on a single mission. — 340 days.

Whitson also set new records for number of spacewalks by a woman (10), time on spacewalks by a woman (60 hours 21 minutes), the only woman to command the ISS twice (on her 2007-2008 mission and on this one), and the oldest woman to fly in space (58).

Yesterday Trump said “Exploration has always been at the core of who we are as Americans, and [the astronauts’] brave contributions to human space flight have continued that tradition” according to a White House readout of the phone call.

The White House press release stated that the “President is supportive of the budding commercial space flight industry, and encourages competition and innovation in that area,” although the remarks were not attributed to him.

Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement that he appreciates the President “reaching out to congratulate Peggy for her record-breaking mission and Jack for his accomplishments on his first spaceflight.”  He added his thanks to the teams who supported the mission “especially in Houston” where Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey wreaked havoc during the final days of the flight, but the teams “still maintained the focus to get Peggy and Jack home safely.”

Usually NASA astronauts fly back to Houston directly from Kazakhstan, but the NASA airplane could not leave Houston on time to meet them because of Harvey. Instead, the European Space Agency (ESA), a partner in the ISS program, sent a plane from its astronaut center in Cologne, Germany to pick them up.  The NASA plane rendezvoused with them in Cologne and brought them home to Houston.  Trump spoke to them while they were on the NASA plane.

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