President Bush Chats with Discovery, ISS Astronauts

HOUSTON--Thenine astronauts living aboard the shuttle Discovery and International SpaceStation received a long distance call from the U.S. President Tuesdaycongratulating them on their courage and successful mission so far.

"I want to thankyou for being risk takers for the sake of exploration," President George W.Bush told Discovery's STS-114 crew and the station's Expedition 11 astronauts."Thanks for being such great examples of courage for a lot of our fellowcitizens."

Collins andthe collected astronauts inside the ISS thanked Bush and praised ongoingefforts to renew manned missions to the moon and other planets.

"We reallyenjoy what we're doing, we're really believe in our mission and we believe inspace exploration and getting people off the planet and seeing what's outthere," Collins said. "The steps that we're taking are really worth it, and wewant everybody to know that."

In January2004, Bush announced a vision for space exploration--adopted by NASA--that calledfor a renewed push for the human exploration of the moon, Mars and otherplanets.

During hisbrief call to the joint Discovery-ISS crew from the Roosevelt Room in the WhiteHouse, Bush assured the astronauts of his support for their mission. First LadyLaura Bush and Floridagovernor Jeb Bush attended Discovery's July 26 launchand were excited by the successful space shot, he added.

"We're withyou, and wish you all the very best," Bush said. "Obviously, as you prepare tocome back, a lot of Americans will be praying for your safe return."

Discovery'sSTS-114 flight is NASA's first shuttle flight since the Columbiadisaster, in which seven astronauts were killed as their orbiter broke apartover Texas onFeb. 1, 2003. NASA spent two and a half years, and $1.4 billion, to increaseshuttle flight safety and develop new tools and techniques for orbiterinspection and repair.

Discovery'screw has already demonstrated two potential heat shield repair methods during aJuly 30 spacewalk. During an early morning extravehicular activity (EVA) onAug. 3, STS-114 mission specialist is expected to perform an actual repair -removing a pair of gap-filling strips of ceramic fiber cloth jutting out frombetween the black heat tiles that protect Discovery's underside from thesearing heat of reentry.

Collinstold Bush that the Discovery-ISS complex passed over Texas, giving the astronauts a good view ofhis home state and theirs--since it also holds NASA's Johnson Space Center(JSC).

"We did flyover Texastoday and had a good look at it," Collins told Bush. "It looks beautiful."

"Thanks fortaking my phone call, now get back to work," Bush told the astronauts jokingly,prompting a round of laughter on both ends.

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