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Obama Talks to the Space Station

President Obama, joined by Congressional leaders and middle school students from the Washington, D.C., area congratulate the astronauts from the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle Discovery on a very long distance phone call. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

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."

By Web Politics Editor  |  March 24, 2009; 1:05 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama  
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You are aware that it was Obama who kept Colbert's name off the ballot in South Carolina, right?

Posted by: JakeD | March 25, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Naming the module as "Colbert" will be a shot in the arm for NASA. They will get free advertisment, airtime and hype from the show. He will do it for free. They can invite him to NASA for a tour and during the launch. Just imagine how much media it will generate, knowing how far Colbert will go. When he launched his Presidential campaign he picked Doritos as his sponsor for free. It was the best thing that happened to their brand without spending a dime on celebrity endosement.

Posted by: gjay78 | March 25, 2009 1:14 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: JakeD | March 24, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

To Obama, "image" is everything, especially when that's all you have.

Posted by: trippermeow | March 24, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse


So, can we tax AIR FORCE ONE to him at 90% or not?

Posted by: JakeD | March 24, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse

In response to those criticizing our president for making this phone call, a response which is absolutely flabbergasting to me:

I remain a strong supporter of an American presence in manned spaceflight, for reasons too numerous to list here. Throughout its history, direct presidential support, usually through phone calls, Rose Garden visits, and the like, has been a very strong tradition in our space program. There should NEVER be a time when the president is considered "too busy" to honor our crews in space.

So far all has gone well with recent shuttle missions and I hope it will continue to do so, but let's face it, these are very brave people as well as very gifted and talented ones. I honor their service and am delighted President Obama took the time to do so on behalf of the nation.

Let's not forget that unlike other countries, we combine the ceremonial duties of head of state and the substantive responsibilities of chief executive into one office, the presidency. Like every other president, Presiden Obama has to do both. Fortunately, he balances the two roles well, with grace and intelligence. Unlike some commenters here, I think the American people understand that.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | March 24, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Can we tax AIR FORCE ONE to him at 90%?

Posted by: JakeD | March 24, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Publicity stunt man at work - too bad he cannot work at being a President!

But -hey- we are the ones paying the taxes for his free ride - so it seems like we need to do some pay-for-performance - and not the theatrical kind!

Let's tax Obama's overall income at 90% until we have no deficit and a budget that is paid for - not borrowed.

Posted by: mgd1 | March 24, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

The contest rules say NASA reserves the right to "ultimately select a name in accordance with the best interests of the agency. ... Such name may not necessarily be one which is on the list of voted-on candidate names."

Posted by: JakeD | March 24, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad to see our president being cool and calm during these stressful times. Sometimes you have to smile and crack a joke or two to knock the edge off the stress block. I'm also glad to see that he's never too busy for the local middle school kids.

Posted by: BigHustla | March 24, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I bet Obama wished he was up there with 'em last week...

Posted by: parkerfl1 | March 24, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I just want to know if NASA is going to really name the new Space Station addition after "Stephen T. Colbert"?


Actually, I heard they were thinking of suspending the vote specifically because of that issue.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | March 24, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

What's up with Obama and making jokes? What a funny dude. This guy really loves to make jokes.

Posted by: trumeau | March 24, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

28-minute call worth it. Our astronauts need to be recognized for their work. Let's take a break from AIG, Wall Street, bank toxic assets, bail-outs, etc.

Posted by: mstratas | March 24, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Hasn't he got anything better to do than talk with a bunch of SOCIALIST Astronauts?

Posted by: JRM2 | March 24, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

If this story were about GW Bush talking to astronauts, there would be outrage on this board that he was spending time on such a frivolous thing.

Posted by: wolfcastle | March 24, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

After reading the headline my initial reaction was:

Is Obama talking to objects and not people? Things are worse than what I thought.

Posted by: opita1 | March 24, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

There could be no better investment in America than to invest in America becoming energy independent! We need to utilize everything in out power to reduce our dependence on foreign oil including using our own natural resources. Create cheap clean energy, new badly needed green jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.The high cost of fuel this past year seriously damaged our economy and society. The cost of fuel effects every facet of consumer goods from production to shipping costs. It costs the equivalent of 60 cents per gallon to charge and drive an electric car. If all gasoline cars, trucks, and SUV's instead had plug-in electric drive trains the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota.We have so much available to us such as wind and solar. Let's spend some of those bail out billions and get busy harnessing this energy. Create cheap clean energy, badly needed new jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. What a win-win situation that would be for our nation at large! There is a really good new book out by Jeff Wilson called The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence Now.

Posted by: BeyondGreen | March 24, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Whoops. Headline must've been truncated. It should have read:

"After Solving All the Nation's Pressing Problems, Obama Talks to the Space Station"

Posted by: HughJassPhD | March 24, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I just want to know if NASA is going to really name the new Space Station addition after "Stephen T. Colbert"?

Posted by: JakeD | March 24, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

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