Tales from the Trail

You can see the Golden Gate Bridge from low-earth orbit

President Barack Obama and a group of brainiac young students played stump-the-astronaut with the current occupants of the orbiting space station.

OBAMA/This was an event beamed live between the White House Roosevelt Room (the bookcase has been converted into a whizbang video screen) and the space station.

Obama, phone cradled on his shoulder, talked to the group of astronauts sitting erect and being careful not to float away in their gravity-free environment.

The 12 middle school students from Michigan, Florida, North Carolina and Nebraska had lots of questions once Obama turned the microphone over to them, such as the age-old query:  what can you really see on Earth from space?

“Yes, we can see a lot of great landmarks. We can see the Golden Gate Bridge (in San Francisco), the great skyscrapers in New York and the Grand Canyon is just breathtaking,” said one astronaut.

Space quiz and levity at the White House

President Barack Obama treated astronauts on the International Space Station to a little levity of his own as they traveled at 17,500 mph, circling the planet once every 90 minutes. “Do you guys still drink Tang up there?” the president asked to laughter.

It took some effort, but the 10 astronauts in blue shirts, including some from Japan and Russia, bobbed but managed not to float off during  the presidential session by holding onto a rail with their toes.

The astronauts appeared on a screen in the White House Roosevelt Room, and Obama initially did not realize he had to use a telephone to speak to them.  “The handset sir,” a staffer instructed.