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The ten astronauts aboard the International Space Station chatted with US President Barack Obama – along with some school children and Congressmen (“big kids when it comes to talking to astronauts,” Obama said). Topics discussed during the 30 minute conversation included the new solar arrays installed by the STS-119 crew, extraterrestrial life, video games, space food and exercise. Obama got a big laugh in orbit and on the ground when said he was glad the astronauts were using a hands-free phone since they were cruising along at 17,500 mph. He also asked if the astronauts still drank Tang, which didn’t even merit a reply from space.
The president told the ISS crews and the visiting shuttle crew he was extraordinarily proud of them for their work the past week, and wanted details of how they installed the new solar panels.
“We’re investing back here on the ground a whole array of solar and other renewable energy projects and so to find out that you’re doing this up at the space station is particularly exciting,” Obama said.
Last week’s addition of the last set of solar wings doubled the amount of power available for science experiments and will help support a larger crew in a few months.
Obama also asked Sandy Magnus, who has been on board the ISS for several months, and the only woman on board, whether she was ever tempted to cut her hair, which floated around her head. She said no, and the president called it “a real fashion statement.”
Obama also noted the “international-ness” of the ISS and said, “One of the things about this that this is an international space station, and we hope this is an example of the sort of spirit of cooperation we can apply not just in space by here on the ground as well.”
To watch the complete interview, CollectSPACE has the video.
The space shuttle crew departed from the ISS on Wednesday.