Obama Tells Atlantis Crew “You've Allowed All of Us to Continue on Our Journey for Growth and Exploration.”
The crew of Space Shuttle STS-125 recently completed an astonishing mission: refurbishing the Hubble Space Telescope to greatly expand its ability to continue to explore the universe – and the history of the universe. The mission included five lengthy spacewalks, some creativity and brute strength, and successful outcomes on all major mission objectives, which included installing new instruments and thermal blankets, repairing existing instruments, refurbishing subsystems, and replacing gyroscopes, batteries and a unit that stores and transmits science data to Earth. The result is six working, complementary science instruments with new capabilities, and an extended operational lifespan through at least 2014. As the crew prepared to return to Earth, they spoke by long distance (very long distance) to President Barack Obama. Here are some excerpts of that historic call:
President Obama: Well, it is wonderful to speak to you today. I wanted to personally tell you how proud I am of all of you and everything that you've accomplished. Like a lot of Americans, I've been watching with amazement the gorgeous images you've been sending back and the incredible repair mission that you've been making in space. I think you're just providing a wonderful example of the kind of dedication and commitment to exploration that represents America and the space program generally. And these are traits that have always made this country strong and all of you personify them.
STS-125 Commander Scott Altman: Well thank you very much, sir. I think you're exactly right that this mission's been an example of what our country can do as we work together. It's been a teamwork of all the folks on the ground in addition to the folks outside spacewalking making this all come together and work for us.
President Obama: Well, I know that you talked about what an incredible journey it's been for you and how ... it provides an example of how humanity can work together even in the most harsh environments to get things done. As I said, watching you guys out there in space on some of those spacewalks is amazing. And Dr. Grunsfeld, I was moved by your observation that the Hubble is more than just a satellite, but an iconic symbol of our quest for knowledge. I thought that that captures accurately the work that you guys are doing.
Mission Specialist John Grunsfeld: Well, thanks very much Mr. President. I know we all believe that in our hearts. What always strikes me as being so incredible is that it's almost impossible to go into any K-12 classroom these days and not see Hubble images on the wall inspiring kids to do great things and maybe some of them to become astronauts some day and push our frontiers even farther.
President Obama: Well, I know that you've excited my 10-year-old and my 7-year-old. And they've got some images like that that they prize whenever we talk about space. And so, by allowing Hubble to continue on its journey, you've really allowed all of us to continue on our journey for growth and exploration.
You know, here in Washington, there's a lot of talk about clarifying our focus, our vision for where the country needs to go. And I really think that what you guys represent is an example of what "vision" means. The space program's always described our willingness to stretch beyond current boundaries and to look at things in new ways. So, in that way, you inspire us all, and I'm hoping that you guys recognize how important your mission is to the world as well as to this country. . . I can assure you that it's a high priority of mine to restore that sense of wonder that space can provide and to make sure that we've got a strong sense of mission, not just within NASA but for the country as a whole. . .
I want to wish you all godspeed and tell you how grateful we are for the extraordinary work that you're doing.
Altman: Thank you, Mr. President, we're very honored both to speak with you and to be a part of this mission. It's been a great honor. We're very proud to be part of the space program and this Hubble mission.
A complete call transcript and audio link can be found at: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/podcasting/125_whitehouse_call.html
The STS-125 crew comprises:
Scott Altman, Commander (Retired Capt., USN)
Michael Good, Mission Specialist-1 (Col., USAF)
John Grunsfeld, Mission Specialist-3
Andrew Feustel, Mission Specialist-5
Gregory C. Johnson, Pilot (Retired Capt., USN)
Megan McArthur, Mission Specialist-2
Mike Massimino, Mission Specialist-4
Spacewalk photo courtesy of NASA.