1. Headline
  1. Headline

Video: Obama congratulates shuttle crew

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 3/3/2011 6:11:53 PM ET 2011-03-03T23:11:53

The 12 orbiting astronauts on the International Space Station were hailed by the chief on Thursday — and also got a humorous scolding for keeping their android crewmate locked up in its packing for so long.

Over an Earth-to-space audio link, President Barack Obama praised the combined crews of the shuttle Discovery and the space station for their work during Discovery's final spaceflight, which he called a "critical and iconic mission."

"You are setting such a great example with your dedication, your courage, your commitment to exploration," Obama told the astronauts. "These are traits that built America, and you guys personify them."

On its final space trip before retirement, Discovery brought up a walk-in storage closet called Leonardo that was stuffed with supplies and equipment, including a humanoid robot named Robonaut 2 or R2.

Obama referred to R2 during his phone call: "Are you guys making him do chores up there? Washing the dishes or something?"

Discovery commander Steven Lindsey told the president that the robot wasn't on the job quite yet. "He's still in packing foam, so we hope to get him out shortly," Lindsey said.

"That's a shame, man," Obama joked. "C'mon, guys, unpack the guy."

Lindsey played along with the joke, saying that "every once in a while we hear some scratching sounds from inside."

R2 is due to stay in its packing case until well after Discovery's departure. Eventually, the two-armed torso will be tested on simple tasks inside the space station.

Obama also had some words of encouragement for NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, the space station's current commander. Scott Kelly's twin brother, Mark, is also an astronaut who is scheduled to head the next shuttle mission. Mark Kelly's wife is U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is recovering from wounds suffered during a gunman's attack in January.

The president said he heard from Mark Kelly that Giffords was making "incredible progress," and he told Scott that she was "always in our thoughts and prayers."

"Yes, sir, thank you. She's really a true inspiration to all of us," the station commander said.

Mission extended to 13 days
With the major objectives of their joint mission behind them, the station and shuttle crews had most of the day off — and found out that they're getting an extra day to savor their time in outer space.

  1. Space news from NBCNews.com
    1. Teen's space mission fueled by social media
      KARE

      Science editor Alan Boyle's blog: "Astronaut Abby" is at the controls of a social-media machine that is launching the 15-y...

    2. Buzz Aldrin's vision for journey to Mars
    3. Giant black hole may be cooking up meals
    4. Watch a 'ring of fire' solar eclipse online

On Thursday, NASA managers added a 13th day to Discovery's mission, which already had been stretched earlier in the week to 12. When notified about "the extra extra day," Lindsey called it great news. "We're excited," he said.

Lindsey referred to the extension during his chat with the president, noting that by his reckoning, Discovery will have spent 365 days in space over more than 26 years of service. "She won't be forgotten for a long, long time, we hope," Lindsey said.

Other crew members reviewed Discovery's mission and its history in a series of TV interviews earlier in the day.

Discovery astronaut Alvin Drew said that when he floated out on his first spacewalk this week, "I had to keep reminding myself that I had a job to do and not just take in this gorgeous scenery around me."

"You are part of the scene. You've gone through the looking glass," he said.

Reflections on final voyage
Astronaut Nicole Stott said she and her crewmates have talked a lot about Discovery's final voyage. NASA's oldest shuttle will be retired once it returns to Earth next week and be sent to a museum.

Endeavour will make its farewell flight in April, and Atlantis will close out NASA's 30-year shuttle program this summer.

Stott noted that the word "bittersweet" is used quite a bit to describe this last flight of Discovery, which she called "a really, really high-performing spacecraft."

"I tend to think more 'bittersad,'" she told an interviewer.

She added: "It's just a part of history that I hope we hold on to and appreciate and that we celebrate when we get home and are walking away from her on the runway for the last time."

Discovery will remain at the space station until Monday, two days longer than originally planned. The extra time will be used to unload supplies and experiments from the Leonardo storage unit.

Landing is now scheduled for Wednesday.

More about Discovery's mission:

This report includes information from The Associated Press and msnbc.com.

© 2013 msnbc.com

Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

loading photos...
  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. TODAY

    video Ceasefire crumbles after 3 hours between Israel, Gaza

    8/1/2014 11:36:26 AM +00:00 2014-08-01T11:36:26
  1. TODAY wakes up to Aloe Blacc on the TODAY plaza

    video Aloe Blacc provides a soulful performance of “Wake Me Up” live.

    8/1/2014 1:39:25 PM +00:00 2014-08-01T13:39:25
  2. video Aloe Blacc is ‘The Man’ on the TODAY plaza

    video The singer-songwriter performs his hit single “The Man” live on TODAY.

    8/1/2014 1:38:41 PM +00:00 2014-08-01T13:38:41
  3. TODAY