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 SPACE.com 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.