July 15, 2011
President Obama Gives Astronauts A Call
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station got a phone call from President Barack Obama on Friday.
Obama called the astronauts to pay tribute to the crew aboard space shuttle Atlantis' final mission.
Once the crew introduced themselves, he said: "Well, that's funny because I was just dialing out for pizza; I didn't expect to end up in space."
Atlantis returns to Earth next Thursday and will join the other space shuttles in retirement.
"There have been thousands who have poured their hearts and souls into America's space shuttle program over the last three decades that are following this mission with special interest," the president said.
"To them and all the men and women of NASA, I want to say thank you. You helped our country lead the space age and you continue to inspire us."
The Obama Administration put an end to the space shuttle program in order to try and put the U.S. on track to explore commercializing low-Earth orbit space transportation.
"We sure hope to see some of our commercial partners climbing onboard really soon," Atlantis shuttle commander Chris Ferguson told the president.
"I know there is a lot of competition out there, a lot of people are fervently working towards this goal to be the first to send a commercial astronaut into orbit; and we look forward to seeing them here soon."
The Atlantis crew has been unloading supplies the last few days, which NASA said is enough to keep the ISS running for a year.
"It's going to be sad to retire the shuttle," commander Ferguson said in an earlier call with media. "That said, it's had a very long and storied career. It's done tremendous things.
"If it weren't for the space shuttle, the station wouldn't be here and it certainly wouldn't be as large as it is." he added.
Image Caption: President Barack Obama speaks with the crews of STS135 and the ISS from the Oval Office at the White House. Credit: NASA
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