President Barack Obama says he is extraordinarily proud of the astronauts aboard the linked shuttle-space station complex.
During a video conference call Tuesday, Obama questioned the 10 astronauts about everything from how fast they are traveling and to exercising in space. He also asked what they do besides work on experiments and how weightlessness affects their sleep.
Students from Washington area middle schools and members of Congress joined him for the call. Former astronaut Sen. Bill Nelson, (D-Fla.), White House science adviser John Holdren, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, (R-Texas) were also in attendance.
Questions from the kids included, “As an astronaut, what do you eat?” “Have you found any life forms or any plants out in space?” “When you say you exercise, what do you do?” “How many stars are there in space?” and “What do you have to study to be an astronaut?” POTUS relayed each question over the phone, in case the astronauts couldn’t hear the kids, and interjected his own questions and wry remarks at times. After the question about life forms, he nodded with mock gravity and said, “That’s a good question,” and after the one about stars, he added, “I’ll be interested to hear the answer to that one.”
President Obama teased one astronaut, whose hair was floating above her head in the weightless space station, asking her whether she’d considered cutting it short before leaving Earth: “Now, can I ask you a question — were you tempted to cut your hair shorter while you were up there? Or is it fun in weightlessness?” The astronaut laughed and said short hair was probably “ideally” “the way to go” but that a shorter cut wouldn’t look good on her. “I think it’s a real fashion statement,” Obama told her. The president also asked if e-mail worked the same between the space station and Earth as it does on Earth. The astronauts told him they only synch their e-mail up with servers back home one or two times a day.
When the satellite linkup window with the station was coming to an end, the president brought the call to a close, telling the kids to wave to the astronauts. “They’re all beaming,” he said. “What do you all say? That was good, right?” Obama asked the kids. The call over, the astronauts started floating away before the video link cut out. “Look, look!” the president called out to the kids as your pool was led out of the room. “That would be a pretty good way to take off.”