By Mark Rivett-Carnac
October 20, 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama made an ultra long-distance call to American astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren aboard the International Space Station on Monday.

The President spoke to the astronauts ahead of astronomy night at the White House, praising their inspiring work and stellar Instagram feed.

More than halfway through his one-year mission, Kelly just set an American record for the cumulative number of days in space and next week he will surpass the single-longest spaceflight record. During the marathon voyage, Kelly and his team will research how our bodies and minds adjust to long-duration spaceflight and conduct 400 experiments to prepare for a “journey to mars.”

Follow TIME’s ongoing coverage of Kelly’s year in space here.

 

Write to Mark Rivett-Carnac at mark.rivett-carnac@timeasia.com.

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