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President Trump congratulates record-setting astronaut Peggy Whitson

Whitson earned the title early Monday morning, surpassing astronaut Jeff Williams' record of 534 days.

By Brooks Hays
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President Trump congratulates record-setting astronaut Peggy Whitson
President Donald Trump (C) speaks along with his daughter Ivanka (R) and NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins, during a video conference with NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station in the Oval Office at the White House on Monday. Pool photo by Molly Riley/UPI | License Photo

April 24 (UPI) -- President Trump offered his congrats in a phone call to NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, new record holder for the most cumulative days spent in space.

Whitson earned the title early Monday morning, surpassing astronaut Jeff Williams' record of 534 days. Whitson is currently aboard the International Space Station serving as the commander of Expedition 51.

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The president was joined for the 20-minute call by First Daughter Ivanka Trump and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins.

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

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"On behalf of our nation and, frankly, on behalf of our world, I'd like to thank you," the president added.

The president also emphasized the importance of female participation in STEM education.

"Peggy is a phenomenal role model for young women, and all Americans, who are exploring or participating in STEM education programs and careers," Trump said.

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The 57-year-old Whitson was a scientist before she was an astronaut, earning graduate degrees in biochemistry from Rice University in Houston before coming to conduct research at NASA's Johnson Space Center in 1989.

The NASA scientist began training as an astronaut in 1996. She made her first trip to the International Space Station in 2008. In addition to her record-setting time in space, Whitson has also accumulated a impressive number of spacewalk hours.

Whitson expressed gratitude to her colleagues on Monday as she set the record, tweeting: "It is one of those rides that you hope never ends. I am so grateful for all those who helped me on each of my missions!"

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