Calling someone 220 miles away may not seem like a newsworthy action, but it certainly becomes a headline when the phone is in the hand of U.S. President Barack Obama, and the call’s recipients are NASA astronauts orbiting high above the Earth.
More pointedly, President Obama this week placed a call to the International Space Station (ISS) in order to offer a verbal backslapping to the crew of both the station and the visiting space shuttle Endeavour for work well done during NASA mission STS-130.
The current mission has seen Endeavour and her crew of six delivering and installing Tranquility, the station’s final U.S. module – which comes equipped with an impressive observation deck that affords station occupants sweeping panoramic views of the Earth and the $10 billion USD facility.
“The amazing work that’s being done on the International Space Station, not only by our American astronauts – but also our colleagues from Japan and Russia – is just a testimony to human ingenuity,” enthused Obama during the call from the Roosevelt Room within the White House.
Supported by an accompanying live video feed, Obama went on to praise “the extraordinary skill and courage” of the station’s occupants and insisted that his commitment to NASA “is unwavering” despite recent funding restraints placed on NASA’s plans for another manned mission to the moon.
The 20-minute call included a brief question and answer session during which the president and a group of attending students probed the astronauts regarding mission STS-130 and life in space.
“The rumor was you could see the Great Wall [of China] from space, but I’m sure that’s not true,” toyed Obama. To which the orbiting astronauts replied that it was indeed true, while adding that other notable features of the planet visible from space include the Grand Canyon and even San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
The space shuttle Endeavour and her crew are due to uncouple from the ISS this coming Friday, with a return to Earth pencilled in for Sunday.