March 3rd, 2011
08:27 PM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Obama made a really long-distance phone call on Wednesday evening when he talked to astronauts aboard the space shuttle Discovery.
Mr. Obama congratulated the twelve crew members of the Discovery and International Space Station. “We are always inspired by the images of you at work as you put some of the final pieces to make the ISS fully operational," Obama said. "You are setting such a great example with your dedication, your courage, your commitment to exploration.” According to Space Station commander Scott Kelly, the retiring shuttle has been into space 38 or 39 times for a total of 365 days. He also told the president about how different countries had contributed to the construction of the space station and how that was a testimony of how countries can work together.
“All these countries put together probably the most complex thing ever built and built it in space and put it all together. And you know what, everything fit the first time we tried it,” Kelly said.
The president asked about an R2 robot that was on board and how it could inspire students in science and technology. The astronauts told him that the robot had recently been pulled out of a module but was currently packed away. “Come on guys, unpack the guy!” the president joked.
The president also mentioned that he recently spoke to Kelly’s twin brother Mark about the “incredible progress” of Mark’s wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Mark Kelly is scheduled to lead the shuttle Endeavour’s last mission next month.