President Donald Trump welcomed NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson, ex-KC5ZTD, and Jack Fischer, K2FSH, as they returned to Houston on September 3 following 6-month stints on board the International Space Station. Whitson, a veteran space traveler, broke the record among US astronauts — and women worldwide — for the most cumulative time in space. Whitson, Fischer, and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, RN3FI, landed in Kazakhstan on Saturday after traveling from the ISS in a Russian Soyuz transporter. Trump spoke with Whitson and Fischer as they were en route by NASA plane to Johnson Space Center’s Ellington Field.
“I want to congratulate Peggy and Jack for their incredible accomplishments. They make us all very proud,” Trump said. “Exploration has always been at the core of who we are as Americans, and their brave contributions to human spaceflight have continued that great tradition.”
Whitson, 55, now holds the record within the NASA corps of astronauts — 665 days — for most cumulative time in space, racked up during three long-duration missions. She is also the only female astronaut to command the ISS twice and was the first woman to do so. During her last mission, she was ISS commander from April 9 through June 1. Whitson also holds multiple spacewalking records. She was part of the ISS Expedition 5 crew in 2002, which was her first time in space.
“Peggy is an inspiration to us all,” the president said, “especially to young women interested in or currently pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math.”
This was the president’s second telephone conversation with the two astronauts. On April 24, when Whitson officially set the US record for most cumulative days in space, Whitson and Fischer received a celebratory phone call from Trump, his daughter Ivanka, and fellow astronaut Kate Rubins, KG5FYJ.
Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot thanked the president for reaching out to Whitson and Fischer. “I want to add my thanks to the teams on the ground across the globe, especially in Houston, who are dealing with the aftermath of a Harvey, yet still maintained the focus to get Peggy and Jack home safely. It is an amazing team,” Lightfoot added.
NASA astronauts Joe Acaba, KE5DAR, and Mark Vande Hei, KG5GNP, and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin will launch to the ISS aboard the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft from Kazakhstan on September 12.