The president spoke Wednesday with the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis after the astronauts repaired the Hubble Telescope during several spacewalks. (Photo Credit: NASA)
(CNN) - President Barack Obama beamed up a special message to the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis on Wednesday, two days before the astronauts are scheduled to return to Earth.
"I wanted to tell you personally how proud I am," Obama said in a brief phone chat. "I think you're just providing a wonderful example of the kind of commitment to exploration that represents America."
Atlantis launched May 11 for NASA's fifth and final repair visit to the Hubble Space Telescope. It was released back into orbit Tuesday morning.
In space for 19 years, the Hubble can capture clear images that telescopes on Earth cannot, partly because it does not have to gaze through murky atmosphere.
Obama said it was amazing to watch the astronauts do their work and called the Hubble "an iconic symbol of the quest for knowledge."
"By allowing Hubble to continue on its journey, you've really allowed all of us to continue on our journey for growth and exploration."
The shuttle crew took the day off Wednesday but will prepare for its journey back to Earth on Thursday.
They will have a new boss in the near future - the president told the crew he would soon name a new NASA administrator.
"Just so we're sure, the new administrator is not any of us on the flight deck, is it?" joked Mission Commander Scott Altman.
The president refused to give any hints, but did ask if he could get a copy of pictures of Chicago taken from space.
"Did you guys see my house?" Obama asked. "I'm trying to figure out if my lawn is getting mowed."
Why do we continue to allow our government to waste tax money in NASA that is much needed on Earth for people struggling to survive this recession? Stop looking to the stars and look in our own streets!
well considering there only about 350 miles above earth it wouldnt be that much of a long distance call that is if they were directly above the white house but if they were above russia it would be considered a long distance call but image the longest phone calls ever made with the astronauts of the apollo missions