US astronaut Peggy Whitson breaks American spaceflight record

US astronaut Peggy Whitson breaks American spaceflight recordNASA/Bill Ingalls(NEW YORK) — U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson, 57, broke the record for the most cumulative time in space by an American astronaut early Monday, streaking past the 534-day record held by Jeff Williams.

The 879-day global record, held by Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, still stands.

By the time she returns to Earth in September, Whitson will have spent 666 days in floating above the planet. She hopes she won’t hold the title for long.

At 1:27 a.m. ET on April 24, @AstroPeggy has officially broken @Astro_Jeff‘s record of 534 days in space. Wish her well with #CongratsPeggy! pic.twitter.com/ylZtOwt4lA

— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) April 24, 2017

“I’m not here because of the record,” Whitson told ABC News’ David Kerley via video teleconference from aboard the International Space Station earlier this month. “I’m definitely here for conducting the science.”

The research she’s doing is “a really important stepping stone” to sending astronauts on even longer missions to Mars — “the sooner the better,” Whitson hopes.

However, “we still have some critical questions to answer,” including the medical complications that come with living in zero gravity, like bone density and muscle constriction, she told Kerley.

“I think the biggest hurdle probably for the human body is going to be the radiation … and probably the easiest solution is to get there faster so that you take less risk along the way,” she said.

Whitson, an Iowa native, is no stranger to shattering records. In 2008, she became the first woman to command the ISS, and just last month — during her eighth spacewalk — Whitson surpassed NASA’s Sunita Williams for the woman with the most cumulative “extra-vehicular activity” time.

Her journey hasn’t always been smooth sailing.

During re-entry following her second mission in 2008, her Soyuz capsule experienced a technical glitch, sending it hurtling into a violent dive and exposing the crew to forces eight times more powerful than the earth’s gravity for more than a minute.

Nevertheless, her time in space is “one of those rides you hope never ends,” Whitson tweeted Sunday. “I am so grateful for all those who helped me on each of my missions.”

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! #LifeInSpace pic.twitter.com/msjKSg6WWH

— Peggy Whitson (@AstroPeggy) April 23, 2017

President Trump and first daughter Ivanka Trump are expected to call the ISS from the Oval Office to congratulate Whitson on her achievement Monday morning.

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After controversial Hawaii comment, Sessions says ‘nobody has a sense of humor’

After controversial Hawaii comment, Sessions says 'nobody has a sense of humor'ABC News(NEW YORK) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions says people should lighten up about controversial comments he made earlier this week about the state of Hawaii.

When asked by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview Sunday on This Week about why he referred to Hawaii as an “island in the Pacific,” Sessions responded “nobody has a sense of humor anymore.”

Sessions stirred up controversy this week when he referred to Hawaii as an “island in the Pacific” to conservative radio host Mark Levin on his program.

“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president from the United States what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power,” Sessions said on the program Tuesday.

Sessions’ comments were referring to the Hawaii judge who issued a nationwide restraining order on President Trump’s revised executive order that calls for suspending the entire refugee program for 120 days and halting immigration from six countries in the Middle East and Africa for 90 days.

Sessions’ comments prompted backlash from Hawaii’s Democratic senators and representatives in Congress.

“The suggestion that being from Hawaii somehow disqualifies Judge Watson from performing his Constitutional duty is dangerous, ignorant, and prejudiced,” Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said in a statement Thursday. “I am frankly dumbfounded that our nation’s top lawyer would attack our independent judiciary. But we shouldn’t be surprised. This is just the latest in the Trump Administration’s attacks against the very tenets of our Constitution and democracy.”

Hirono also tweeted, “Hey Jeff Sessions, this #IslandinthePacific has been the 50th state for going on 58 years. And we won’t succumb to your dog whistle politics.”

Hey Jeff Sessions, this #IslandinthePacific has been the 50th state for going on 58 years. And we won’t succumb to your dog whistle politics

— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) April 20, 2017

When, Stephanopoulos pressed Sessions on This Week for a response to Hirono, asking “Why not just call it the state of Hawaii?” Sessions instead defended the administration’s actions, saying that the executive order is “lawful” and he plans to continue the fight to reinstate it.

“The president — nobody has a sense of humor anymore. Look. The president has to deal with the Department of Defense, the national intelligence agencies, CIA. He knows the threats to this country. He is responsible for protecting America,” the attorney general said. “This order is lawful. It’s within his authority constitutionally and explicit statutory authority. We’re going to defend that order all the way up. And so you do have a situation in which one judge out of 700 in America has stopped this order.

“I think it’s a mistake. And we’re going to battle in the courts and I think we’ll eventually win,” Sessions added.

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