Obama Calls Station Crew, Urges Release of Robonaut

by

The 12 astronauts on the international space station received a call March 3 from U.S. President Barack Obama congratulating them for their work on the Space Shuttle Discovery’s final mission and urging them to unpack the orbital outpost’s new robot.

Obama spoke with the crews of the space station and Discovery as they sailed 363 kilometers above Earth. He was surprised to hear that the astronauts had not yet unpacked the humanoid Robonaut 2, or R2 short.

“I don’t know whether you guys are putting R2 to work, but he’s getting a lot of attention,” Obama said. “That helps inspire some young people when it comes to science and technology.”

Discovery commander Steve Lindsey said they had moved R2 into the station, but they had not opened its packing crate.

“C’mon, unpack the guy! He flew all that way and you guys aren’t unpacking him?” Obama joked.

Discovery launched on its final mission, STS-133, Feb. 24 and docked at the space station two days later. Discovery is scheduled to return March 9 from its 13-day mission to deliver supplies, a new storage room and R2 to the station.