ABC News’ Mary Bruce (@marykbruce) Reports:
President Obama called the crew aboard the final space shuttle flight this afternoon to tell them how “personally proud” he is of them and to assure them of the future of the U.S. space program.
“I always want to just let everybody know how personally proud I am of you and the amazing feats you guys are accomplishing in space,” Obama told the crew of Atlantis and the International Space Station.
“Your example, I think, means so much, not just to your fellow Americans, but also to your fellow citizens on earth. The space program has always embodied our sense of adventure and exploration and courage,” he said.
Atlantis embarked on its final flight last Friday and is set to return to Earth next Thursday, marking the end of the 30 year shuttle program.
“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 that are following this journey with special interest and to them, and all the men and women of NASA, I want to say thank you. You’ve helped our country lead the space age and you continue to inspire us,” Obama said on the call.
Looking ahead to the future, the president said that this final flight “ushers in an exciting new era to push the frontiers of space exploration and human space flight.”
“I’ve tasked NASA with an ambitious new mission to develop the systems and kinds of space technologies that are going to be necessary to conduct space exploration beyond earth and ultimately sending human to Mars, which is obviously no small feat,” Obama said.