I don’t regularly post White House pool reports, but this one, by Salon’s Mike Madden, just has too many zingers to pass by.
POTUS was on a phone handset linked up with the space station. He first tried to greet the astronauts without talking into the phone: “Hello, commander, can you hear us?” An aide standing behind your pool chimed in, “The handset, sir.” “Oh yeah,” POTUS said, starting over. “We’ve got a crew of wonderful schoolchildren here, who are all interested in space, and we’ve got some members of Congress, who are like big kids when it comes to talking to astronauts. I’m told that you’re cruising at 17,500 miles per hour, so we’re glad that you’re using the hands-free phone.”
Read the whole thing after the jump.
Pool report #1, 3/24/09
POTUS call with International Space Station/Shuttle Discovery astronauts
No news, but some funny banter between POTUS and a group of D.C.-area middle school kids who were hanging on the back of his chair during the whole call. A transcript should be moving soon courtesy of White House steno and your friendly neighborhood press office.
The call in the Roosevelt Room lasted about 28 minutes. A display screen in an armoire at one end of the room showed astronauts from the space station and from Discovery, and they passed around a microphone to talk back to Earth. Sitting at the table, POTUS was flanked by former astronaut Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., on his left, and White House science advisor John Holdren on his right. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, sat next to Holdren. POTUS was on a phone handset linked up with the space station. He first tried to greet the astronauts without talking into the phone: “Hello, commander, can you hear us?” An aide standing behind your pool chimed in, “The handset, sir.” “Oh yeah,” POTUS said, starting over. “We’ve got a crew of wonderful schoolchildren here, who are all interested in space, and we’ve got some members of Congress, who are like big kids when it comes to talking to astronauts. I’m told that you’re cruising at 17,500 miles per hour, so we’re glad that you’re using the hands-free phone.” There was about a five-second delay before remarks at the White House made their way up to space.
POTUS asked about a project to install solar panels on the space station and told the crew that was “really exciting” because of the administration’s emphasis on solar energy here on Earth. He asked a few questions about the station’s international crew and about why the astronauts weren’t floating out of the TV shot while talking, and then he opened the floor up to the school kids, acting as moderator of an Earth-to-space q-and-a with the astronauts. (Maybe it was practice for tonight’s prime time news conference.)
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. (For instance, 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.”) He 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 (whose name your pooler doesn’t have; check with NASA if you need it) 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,” POTUS told her. POTUS also asked if e-mail worked the same between the space station and Earth as it does on Earth, perhaps wondering if there was an even more exclusive government BlackBerry address than his own. The astronauts told him they only synch their e-mail up with servers back home one or two times a day. POTUS also handed the phone to Hutchison, Nelson and Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D-Fla., whose district includes the Kennedy Space Center, where the shuttle launches from.
When the satellite linkup window with the station was coming to an end, POTUS 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?” POTUS asked the kids. The call over, the astronauts started floating away before the video link cut out. “Look, look!” POTUS called out to the kids as your pool was led out of the room. “That would be a pretty good way to take off.”