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President Obama called to congratulate Scott Kelly (far left) on becoming the American to have spent longest in spaceWhite House

US President Obama called the International Space Station (ISS) to speak with Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly to congratulate him on becoming the American who has spent the most number of days living in space. The call was made ahead of Astronomy Night at the White House, which was held to celebrate science, technology and space.

Kelly is also set to become on 29 October the record-holder for the single longest space-flight by an American, overtaking Michael Lopez-Alegria. He is currently just over halfway through the One-Year Mission, which will provide scientists with vital information on how long-duration space-flight affects the body. This information is crucial for long duration missions like those being planned for Mars.

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President Obama takes part in Astronomy Night at the White HouseNasa

Obama spoke with Kelly from the White House, praising him on his work on the ISS and his widely followed Instagram feed. The president also asked how Kelly was feeling generally, following over 200 days in space. "The records are made to be broken," Kelly said. "I'm feeling great, I feel like I've been here for a long time obviously and it feels like I've got a long way ahead, but it shouldn't be a problem getting to the end with enough energy and enthusiasm to complete the job."

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Crowds gather outside the White House for Astronomy NightNasa

Obama also spoke about Astronomy Night and how Kelly had been inspiring young people from across the country: "Let me tell you, we've been following your Instagram feed down here and it's spectacular... I can't tell you how inspired these kids are when they think about what you're doing and my suspicion is that you're Instagram feed alone has probably sent a bunch of young people along a new course. There are going to be some kids here tonight who have never known a time where we didn't have an astronaut or two living on board the Space Station.

"As you know I've tapped Nasa to put us on a train to Mars and you're part of that process helping us reach that goal, so I'm really proud of everything that's going on."

In his speech at Astronomy Night, Obama said it is important to inspire young people into STEM subjects, especially women who are often under-represented in these fields. He commended organisations across the country that are "taking the lead" in encouraging interest in science: "Because that's how we're going to make sure our next generation of explorers take us even farther than we're going today."

President Obama and Scott Kelly's conversation − full transcript

Obama: My understanding is that on Thursday next week, you're setting the record man and that's nothing to sneeze at.

Kelly: Yeah, well actually just a couple of days ago I went above the record for days in space for an American. Then in a week or so here I'll surpass the single flight duration record for an American as well.

Obama: How are you feeling generally?

Kelly: The records are made to be broken. I'm feeling great, I feel like I've been here for a long time obviously and it feels like I've got a long way ahead, but it shouldn't be a problem getting to the end with enough energy and enthusiasm to complete the job.

Obama: Let me tell you we've been following your Instagram feed down here and it's spectacular, and as I think you've been told, we're holding an Astronomy Night at the White House and with students from all over the country. I don't know if we're going to be able to see you through our telescope, I don't think it's that powerful, but I can't tell you how inspired these kids are when they think about what you're doing and my suspicion is that your Instagram feed alone has probably sent a bunch of young people along a new course. There are going to be some kids here tonight who have never known a time where we didn't have an astronaut or two living on board the Space Station, with 15 years of continuous human presence up there. So congratulations to you and to Kjell [Lindgren] and everyone at Nasa. I hope more young people get to see some of the incredible things that you're doing. As you know I've tapped Nasa to put us on a train to Mars and you're part of that process helping us reach that goal, so I'm really proud of everything that's going on.

Kelly: Well, thank you, sir. It's a real privilege to be part of such a great programme. We're doing a lot of great science up here – over 400 experiments while I'm here for this year and a lot of those are to getting us on this journey to Mars and it'll be great to see it be a success and hopefully some of those kids who will be there tonight will be part of that in some capacity or another.