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President Talks to Crew aboard ISS

Below are notes from President Barack Obama's call to all 10 crew members of space shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station's Expedition 28: Chris Ferguson, Doug Hurley, Sandy Magnus, Rex Walheim, Andrey Borisenko, Ron Garan, Alexander Samokutyaev, Sergei Volkov, Mike Fossum, and Satoshi Furukawa.

image of President Obama Image Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

crew members of space shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station's Expedition 28 Image Credit: NASA

President Obama: Hello? This is President Obama, who am I talking to?

Chris Ferguson: Hello Mr. President, you're talking to the increment 28 crew and the crew of the space shuttle Atlantis.

President Obama: Well that's funny because I was just dialing out for pizza and I didn't expect to end up in Space.

Chris Ferguson: Well sir, it's really an honor and a privilege that you took some time out of your busy day to meet with us.

President Obama: Well listen, it is wonderful to talk to you and I appreciate you guys taking the time out from your mission. I always just want to just let everybody know how personally proud I am of you and the amazing feats you guys are accomplishing in space, and I was here in the Oval Office watching you guys take off last Friday. We're all watching as the 10 of you work together as a team to conduct spacewalks and manage experiments and do all the things necessary to keep the space station humming. Your example means so much, not just to your fellow Americans, but also to your fellow citizens on Earth. And the space program has always embodied our sense of adventure and exploration and courage as you guys work in a really harsh environment. And I know that there have been thousands who have poured their hearts and souls into America's Space Shuttle Program over the last three decades, they're following this journey with special interest. And 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. Captain Ferguson, I realize you're a veteran of previous flights, but it must be pretty special to be the commander of the last flight of the historic shuttle program.

Chris Ferguson: Absolutely Mr. President, and just let me say on behalf of all of the international partners for the International Space Station right now we're all just absolutely honored and privileged to represent our home countries in this multinational effort. And to answer your question, sir, yes, it is an extreme pleasure to be just a part of this fine crew of four who represent our country on the final space shuttle mission, scheduled for an undocking here in just a few days and a landing at the Kennedy Space Center in a little less than a week.

President Obama: Well I understand that you guys are also doing some pretty important mission work up there. I understand there's something about an automated refueling mission demonstration.

Sandy Magnus: Yes, Mr. President, we have a piece of equipment onboard, it's a technology demonstration unit for the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator to work, to show and prove the technology to robotically and remotely service satellites, and we're hoping that with the work that we'll be able to do, with the tests done here on space station, it will lead us to further advance our robotics capabilities.

President Obama: Well that's terrific. And it's a good reminder of how NASA technology and research often times has huge spillover effects into the commercial sector, and makes it all that much more important in terms of people's day-to-day lives.
So I understand Atlantis also brought a unique American flag up to the station? One that was flown on the very first shuttle mission and one that will reside on the ISS until an American commercial space company launches astronauts to the station.

Chris Ferguson: Yes Mr. President. We brought a flag that was flown on STS-1, and as part of a special presentation most certainly we're going to have before we undock from the International Space Station, we'll present that to the space station crew, and it will hopefully maintain a position of honor until the next vehicle launched from U.S. soil brings U.S. astronauts up to dock with the space station.

President Obama: And I understand it's going to be sort of a "capture the flag" moment here for commercial spaceflights, so good luck to whoever grabs that flag.

Chris Ferguson: That's an excellent point, sir, we sure hope to see some of our commercial partners climbing onboard really soon. And I know there's a lot of competition out there, a lot of people are fervently working towards this goal to be the first one to send a commercial astronaut into orbit, and we look forward to seeing them here soon.

President Obama: I also understand today marks an anniversary of sorts for us and our Russian colleagues. Thirty-six years ago we launched a U.S. Apollo spacecraft and a Soviet Union Soyuz capsule towards a rendezvous in space, and it's pretty exciting to know that American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts aren't just shaking hands 36 years later, but are working every day with partners from other nations to represent humankind coming together in space.

Sergei Volkov: Mr. President, our crew is really international right now, with representatives of three agencies - NASA, Roscosmos and JAXA, and we are working together as one family, as a crew. We are more than just representatives of each country, we are one big family. And now those guys who appeared almost a week ago share with us our International Space Station.

President Obama: Well, it is a wonderful testimony to the human spirit, and you need to be like a family, because I'm assuming you have to share pretty cramped quarters, and a bathroom. My wife and my daughters are always crowding me out, so hopefully you guys have a more organized arrangement than we do.

Chris Ferguson: Well absolutely, Mr. President. We actually have three bathrooms onboard and we have a gym, we have several bedrooms... it's probably one of the more spacious homes that there is outside of planet Earth.

President Obama: Well, this mission marks the final flight of the Space Shuttle Program and also ushers in an exciting new era, to push the frontiers of space exploration and human spaceflight. You guys will continue to operate, or crew members like you will continue to operate the ISS in coming years, and seek to use it to advance scientific research and technology development. I've tasked NASA with an ambitious new mission to develop the systems and space technologies that are going to be necessary to conduct exploration beyond Earth, and ultimately sending humans to Mars, which is obviously no small feat, but I know we're going to be up to the task. I just want to say how proud I am of all of you, congratulations to NASA, to all our international partners, and all the personnel past and present who have spent countless hours and untold effort making the space shuttle and the International Space Station a unique part of our history. So, accept my gratitude on this tremendous accomplishment, and Godspeed as you guys return home next week.

Chris Ferguson: Thank you very much, Mr. President, and once again, on behalf of all the international partners onboard, we're privileged that you took some time to speak with us today and we're honored to represent everybody on the planet Earth. Thank you, sir.

President Obama: You bet, take care now.