Obama Talks to the Space Station
Updated 1:05 p.m.
By Michael A. Fletcher
Flanked by curious middle-school children and several members of Congress at the White House, President Obama placed a congratulatory phone call to the astronauts who just installed new solar wings at the International Space Station.
Speaking from the Roosevelt Room on a telephone hooked up with the space station, Obama complimented the astronauts for their work at the space station.
"We are really excited about the project you are doing," Obama said of the work, which doubled solar power for the space station.
Obama said the project was especially exciting because of his administration's emphasis on solar energy and other forms of renewable energy.
The president also cracked a few jokes and conveyed some questions from his guests during the 28-minute call.
The astronauts laughed when Obama told them "we're glad you are using the hands-free phone," as they orbited the Earth at 17,500 mph.
The students wanted to know whether the astronauts can play video games in space, how they exercise in the weightlessness of space, what the astronauts eat and whether they've found any life forms or new planets. Space shuttle astronaut John Phillips said he occasionally played a video game when he lived on the space station for six months in 2005.
Another astronaut said the food was pretty good. He said most of it is dehydrated fare and military-style ready-to-eat meals.
"You guys still drink Tang up there?" Obama asked with a laugh, before noting that one of his guests, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who flew on a space shuttle in 1986, told him it had been taken off the menu.
Obama couldn't resist asking astronaut Sandra Magnus, the only woman onboard, whether she was tempted to cut her hair, which floated above her head in the weightlessness of space on a video monitor as the president spoke. She said short hair is probably ideal, except it is not her best look.
"I think it's a real fashion statement," Obama assured her.
When the satellite linkup with the station was coming to an end, Obama told the students to wave to the astronauts. "They're all beaming," Obama said into the phone.
The call over, the astronauts started floating away in the video link. "Look, look!" Obama said to the students. "That would be a pretty good way to take off."
Posted at 1:05 PM ET on Mar 24, 2009
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