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President Clinton Calls Astronauts

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Office of the Press Secretary
(Houston, Texas)

For Immediate Release April 14, 1998


Call From Johnson Space Center

12:25 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT: Are you ready?


THE PRESIDENT: Well, you're looking good. I hope youfind out a lot of things about the human neurological system to helpme, because I'm moving into those years where I'm getting dizzy andI'm having all these problems -- (laughter) -- and I expect you tocome back with all the answers.

COMMANDER SEARFOSS: Well, thank you, Mr. President.We'll take that on board as one of the challenges that we'll try tomeet. (Laughter.)

If you'd like, Mr. President, I'll introduce my crew toyou.

THE PRESIDENT: I'd like that, and anything you want totell me about the mission I'd be glad to hear it.

COMMANDER SEARFOSS: My name is Rick Searfoss. I'm theCommander of the flight. It will be my third shuttle mission. Rightnext to me, my immediate right, is Scott Altman. He will be thepilot on the flight. Next to him, Kay Hire, our flight engineer.Our payload crew consists of four doctors -- right next to me, RickLinnehan, who is a DVM, veterinarian. And behind us, Drs. Buckey andWilliams are medical doctors; and Jim Pawelczyk is a physiologist, aPHD research. So, as you can see, we've got some great scienceexpertise to do the on-board portion of this mission.

THE PRESIDENT: Just very briefly -- you know, I've gotthe whole national press here with me, so why don't you brieflydescribe what the purpose of the mission is and what some of thethings you're going to be exploring are.

COMMANDER SEARFOSS: Absolutely. The fundamental,overriding question that is consistent across all 26 of ourexperiments, Mr. President, is that what happens in a very detailedsort of way that we want to understand to nervous and neurologicalprocesses and systems when you take the certain variable way that wejust can't take away on Earth, and that's, of course, gravity.

I'm going to turn it over just for a minute or two toDr. Linnehan, who is our Payload Commander, and he can give you a fewmore details on that.


DR. LINNEHAN: Yes, sir, Mr. President, we have 26 majorexperiments that deal all the way from the -- system which is theinner ear, how we interpret balance on Earth as opposed to in space-- up to neuronal plasticity, which really is just another way ofsaying how the brain heals or rewires itself in terms of damage ornew adaptations in space.

THE PRESIDENT: That's great. Well, we're all excitedabout it. We're anxious to see you get off and anxious to see youcome home safely full of information.

One of the general points that I want to make with allof you here, that I have tried to make both to the Congress and tothe nation, is that the space program has enormous potential tochange life here on Earth for the better -- in a health way, in a waythat you're exploring, in environmental ways, and in other ways aswell. So this is a particularly exciting mission to me because Ibelieve it will help to strengthen the support of the rank and fileAmericans for our NASA operations, generally. And I'm very gratefulto you.

Good luck and have a great time out there. Thank you.

COMMANDER SEARFOSS: Thank you very much, Mr. PresidentAppreciate it.

THE PRESIDENT: Bye. Thank you.

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