Obama’s Spacey Phone Call With Astronauts: Stephen Colbert “Excited” About His Treadmill in Space

By Lindsey Ellerson

Feb 17, 2010 6:37pm

ABC News’ Sunlen Miller reports: President Obama called the astronauts on the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle Endeavor congratulating them for their “courage” in the latest mission. “I just wanted to let you guys know how proud we are of all of you, what you guys have been accomplishing,” Obama said from a call from the Roosevelt Room this afternoon, “It is also a testimony to why continued space exploration is so important. And is part of the reason why my commitment to NASA is unwavering.” Endeavour’s crew will spend more a little more than a week at the space station and will do construction on the orbiting outpost – including a room called “Tranquility. The president said that he’s had a chance to look at what the module will do. “Everybody here back home is excited about this,” Obama said joking “And Stephen Colbert at least is excited about his treadmill.” NASA had invited submissions to name a node in the international space station. Stephen Colbert’s viewers voted and he won and the astronauts decided to name a treadmill after the comedian. They ultimately gave it the acronym: Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill for COLBERT. The Colbert treadmill arrived at the space station four months ago. ISSS Commander Jeff Williams explained that the module they will do construction on will serve an important function. “The Tranquility module is also going to serve as a gym, as a hygiene area as a place the crew can maintain themselves for a long duration. And a long duration – living and working in space – is what the space station is all about. To do the research, and the science necessary to take us beyond earth’s orbit.” With the completion of Tranquility the International Space Station will be about almost complete, Williams said. “It really marks the end of the major assembly – or at least the US orbiting segment – as we transition into full utilization of this magnificent orbiting laboratory.” The President was joined in the Roosevelt Room by 12 middle school students from Michigan, Florida, North Carolina and Nebraska, their teachers and Rep Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD).  The students are in Washington D.C. this week as part of 39 teams competing for the “Future City” engineering competition hosted by National Engineers Week and got to pose a few questions to the astronauts. One student wanted to know what landmarks are recognizable from space. The president said he heard rumors they could see the Great Wall, but he’s not sure if that is true. “Yes we can see a lot of the great landmarks,” Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi said, “We can see the Golden Gate bridge, the great skyscrapers of New York. And Grand Canyon is break taking.” Another student asked about the thoughts and emotions of the astronauts while in space. “It is a joyous, giddy moment at the same time you are disoriented,” one responded, “After that passes after a couple of days, for it was kind of a sense of wonder and you explore what you can do in zero gravity and the things you can see out the window.” The astronaut added, ” After a little while after that you start to think about the people back on earth that are the most precious to you, then that little bit of loneliness can kick in.” President Obama nodded as he listened to the astronaut speak about loneliness. Endeavour will depart the International Space Station Friday and is set to return to Earth on Sunday.
-Sunlen Miller

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