Astronauts Watch President Obama's Inauguration from Space

Shaky Space Station Doesn’t Rattle Astronauts
Astronauts Michael Fincke, Expedition 18 commander, and Sandra Magnus, flight engineer, hold Christmas cookies while posing for a photo near the galley in the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA)

Twoastronauts joined the millions of Americans who watched now-President BarackObama?s inauguration Tuesday, even though they were flying high above Earthaboard the International Space Station.

Spacestation commander Michael Fincke and flight engineer Sandra Magnus, both ofNASA, took some time out of their busy day to watch live TV coverage of Obama?sinauguration in Washington, D.C., from their perch 220 miles (354 km) aboveEarth.

?Congratulationson a new president and a new administration,? Fincke told flight controllers onEarth after Obama officially became the 44th U.S. president.

Fincke wasable to votefrom space during the 2008 presidential election while aboard the spacestation thanks to a special Texas law that allows astronauts in orbit toparticipate in local elections in Houston, Texas. He has lived aboard the stationsince last October, with Magnus joining his Expedition 18 crew a month later.

Today?sinauguration, like any major news event, was beamed up to the space stationfrom Mission Control live when possible, NASAspokesperson Kylie Clem told from the Johnson Space Center inHouston. A constant signal is not always possible as the space station orbits the Earth, she added.

?Theactivities today, as much as possible, were being uplinked live,? said Clem,adding that Fincke and his crew had the option of looking in on the news duringthe occasional break from their workday. ?It will also be recorded and uploadedlater so they can look at it then.?

Astronautshave lived aboard the International Space Station since October 2000, makingObama?s inauguration the third to be witnessed from the orbiting laboratoryfollowing the 2001 and 2005 inaugurations of President George W. Bush.

Fincke saidhe, Magnus and their Russian crewmate Yury Lonchakov were also excited to seeTV coverage of the InauguralParade today. Their most recent visitors, NASA?s STS-126 astronaut crew ofthe space shuttle Endeavour, will be marching in the parade along with a newmoon rover prototype.

Magnusarrived at the space station last November with the STS-126 crew to replace NASAastronaut Greg Chamitoff, who returned to Earth aboard Endeavour.

?The nextbest thing to being in the parade will be to watch it from the comfort of ourown space station,? Fincke told Mission Control.


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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.