President Donald Trump has expressed that he would like to see human beings touch down on the planet Mars during his presidency.
He made the remark while congratulating NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who has broken the record for the longest cumulative time a person has spent in outer space, according to media reports.
On April 24, Trump addressed Whitson from the White House. While the president sat in the Oval Office and Whitson and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer floated in the International Space Station, their conversation was facilitated by a live video call.
The date marked Whitson's record-breaking 535 days in space. The previous record holder, astronaut Jeff Williams, had spent 534 from Earth.
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"This is a very special day in the glorious history of American spaceflight," Trump told Whitson, according to CNN. "You have broken the record for the most total time spent in space by an American astronaut. That's an incredible record to break."
The president added "On behalf of our nation and, frankly, on behalf of our world, I'd like to thank you."
Whitson responded that it was an honor "to be representing all the folks at NASA who make space travel possible" and who made setting this record feasible for her.
The president, who was flanked by First Daughter Ivanka Trump and astronaut Kate Rubins, noted his pleasure with the technology that made his conversation with Whitson possible.
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"That's what we like, great American equipment that works," Trump said, according to The Washington Post.
Whitson added that she would like to see technology progress to the point that humanity could reach Mars.
"Getting there will require some international cooperation," Whitson told the president, CNN reports. "Just because it is a very expensive endeavor. But it is so worthwhile doing."
Trump agreed and remarked that he would like for NASA to reach Mars before the end of his presidency, although it was not clear whether his comment was a declaration of intent or a joke.
"We want to do that during my first term or, at worst, my second," Trump said. "We'll have to speed that up a little, OK?"
The president added that private companies may reach Mars before NASA, stating that many "American entrepreneurs are racing into space," according to The Post.
NASA's goal is to send humans to the Red Planet by the early 2030s. In the interval, the agency plans to survey the neighboring planet with robotic operations to determine their readiness to make the trip, according to its official website.
If Trump were to be re-elected, his final year in office would be in 2025. If the president wants to occupy the White House when humans touch down on Martian soil, then his best bet would be billionaire Elon Musk's proposed mission. The Space X founder is aiming for his company to launch a mission to Mars in 2024, The Post notes.