What is Space Security? Summary

February 24, 2010 at 11:13 am | Posted in Blogcast, Space Law, Student Blogger | Leave a comment

by Nicholas Welly, JD Candidate, University of Mississippi School of Law

Yesterday, the National Center for Remote Sensing, Air and Space Law hosted a seminar on space security. Panelists included Center Director, Professor Joanne Gabrynowicz; Center Research Counsel P.J. Blount; Associate Professor of Law Matthew Hall; and Director for the Institute of Space Law at the Beijing Institute of Technology School of law Professor Li Shouping.

Prof. Matthew Hall: National Security
Professor Hall began the event with a discussion of the evolving meaning of “National Security,” describing the sea change in meanings from the Cold War to today. Professor Hall noted that while historically, national security focused on strategic relations, particularly between the former Soviet Union and the United States, today the term has a much more tactical connotation. He argued that this is most evident through the use of terms like counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation, disciplines that deal with specific functional and regional security issues, as opposed to common Cold War terms like counterespionage, which reflected a general national posture with focus on a single adversary. Professor Hall also described shifts in U.S. policy as reflected in documents like the National Intelligence Strategy and National Defense Policy. Professor Hall noted that these documents have expanded to include a focus on economic and transborder issues like disease and climate change. Finally, Professor Hall highlighted that national security community looks different today, with technical experts no longer limited to supporting roles, but now serving as leaders and policy-makers.

P.J. Blount: Space Security
Mr. Blount transitioned the discussion to the topic of space security. He noted that while this issue often conjures images of space weapons, space security is in fact three-dimensional. The first dimension, international peace and security, involves the application of space technologies for the purpose of treaty verification. Mr. Blount noted, however, that space technology is being used for a wider variety of functions than the arms treaty verifications for which they were originally developed, and that today, space systems contribute to climate, humanitarian, and even disaster relief efforts. Mr. Blount then explained the second dimension of space security—national security—still plays much of the same role as was intended at the advent of the space age: protecting national interests against outside threats. However, drawing on Professor Hall’s discussion, Mr. Blount noted that as the definition of national security changes, so does the role of space systems in protecting national interests. Mr. Blount highlighted language of the most recent U.S. National Space Policy (2006) to suggest space security may evolve to protect environmental, economic, and agricultural interests in the future. Finally, Mr. Blount described the space environment as the third dimension of space security, noting that the more heavily States rely on their space systems, the more evident the vulnerability of satellites to various threats becomes. Mr. Blount highlighted several issues threatening the viability of national space systems, including orbital debris, hostile attacks, and orbital overcrowding. He then noted that these issues raise the question of whether more law or less law could solve the challenges they present to free access, exploration, and use of outer space.

Prof. Li Shouping: International Peace & Security
Professor Li began by recognizing that “international security” is not a term of traditional international law. Rather, he noted, international law discusses “international peace and security,” and he pointed to the repeated use of this term in the U.N. Charter. Professor Li then argued that, in fact, international peace is the foundation of international security. Quoting Arnold Wolfers, Professor Li described security as a situation without objective threats and subjective fears, and then noted former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Anan’s call for a new security consensus based upon (1) a subjective freedom from fear, and (2) an objective recognition that whatever threatens one threatens all. Professor Li then explained that a critical factor in establishing international peace and security was the ability of the international community to deal with any threat that might arise, and noted that today, in international security the primary threats are the aggressive war and the use of force against the political independence and territorial integrity of States. In new international security, the threats were extended to international terrorism, poverty, infectious disease, proliferation of nuclear weapons, biochemical weapons, and so on. He concluded that the new connotation of international security has a much broader scope than it historically had. The new international security is a “common security,” which means coexisting with the opponent. The new international security is a “cooperative security,” which means that single States do not have the ability to unilaterally deal with threats. The new International security is a “collective security,” which means that States should recognize that threats today are threats to all, but recognized that this breadth is consistent with the changing threats to States.

Prof. Joanne Gabrynowicz: Collective Security
Professor Gabrynowicz concluded the panel discussion, addressing the topic of collective security. She noted how major historical events (e.g. WWI, WWII, 9/11) get the attention of the international community and catalyze new approaches to issues of security. She then identified several aspects of collective security that have grown out of these events. First, collective security requires that all States, and especially powerful States, must establish formal security arrangements and must be committed to them for them to work. Professor Gabrynowicz also identified international consensus (as opposed to voting) as a key to facilitating collective security. She pointed to the U.N. as an example of how a long-term commitment to relationship-building can overcome the stagnation that comes with voting systems where any one objector can effectively stall the decision-making process. However, she noted that once decisions are made with international consensus, for the collective to impose a sanction, it must have the ability to exert a political or economic force. Consistent with the idea of consensus-building, Professor Gabrynowicz noted that proponents of collective security must have patience and tolerance for ambiguity, and be able to keep the “big picture” in mind during the decision-making process. Professor Gabrynowicz described the last aspect of collective security as trust, highlighting that States will only commit if they believe it will work to protect their own interests. She explained that defining trust on an international basis was particularly difficult because States do not generally have a single identity. Professor Gabrynowicz then concluded that we should expect collective security to become more effective in the post-Cold War environment because there is a different kind of polarity evolving—one between the “have” nations and the “have not” nations, and thus access to and distribution of resources is becoming an increasingly critical issue.

The panel concluded by opening up to questions from the audience.

Restructured NASA Advisory Council Meets to Formulate Agency Guidance

February 24, 2010 at 10:24 am | Posted in Space Law | Leave a comment

by P.J. Blount with the blog faculty

From NASA:

RELEASE : 10-048

Restructured NASA Advisory Council Meets to Formulate Agency Guidance

WASHINGTON — The newly restructured NASA Advisory Council recently concluded its second meeting, held Feb. 18-19, at NASA Headquarters in Washington. This was the first council meeting including all of the committee chairs and other appointed members, completing the restructuring process NASA Administrator Charles Bolden began in fall 2009.

The council provides advice and recommendations to the NASA administrator about agency programs, policies, plans, financial controls and other matters related to the agency’s responsibilities.

“I’m very excited about the council’s new structure,” said NASA Advisory Council Chairman Kenneth M. Ford. “I have the greatest confidence that the committees will provide the full council with the best possible recommendations for Administrator Bolden’s consideration.”

The council and its nine committees meet on a quarterly basis throughout the year in public and fact-finding sessions. The committees are:

* Aeronautics Committee: Marion Blakey, chair
* Audit, Finance and Analysis Committee: Robert M. Hanisee, chair
* Commercial Space Committee: Brett Alexander, chair
* Education and Public Outreach Committee: Miles O’Brien, chair
* Exploration Committee: Richard Kohrs, chair
* Information Technology Infrastructure Committee: retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Albert Edmonds, chair
* Science Committee: Wesley T. Huntress, Jr., chair
* Space Operations Committee: retired Air Force Col. Eileen M. Collins, chair
* Technology and Innovation Committee: Esther Dyson, chair
* Ex-Officio Members: Charles Kennel, chair, Space Studies Board, National Academies, and Raymond Colladay, chair, Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, National Academies

H. Con. Res. 237: Authorizing the use of the rotunda of the Capitol for the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots

February 24, 2010 at 10:19 am | Posted in Aviation Law | Leave a comment

by P.J. Blount with the blog faculty

H. Con. Res. 237: Authorizing the use of the rotunda of the Capitol for the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots was introduced on February 22, 2010 by Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA53):



2d Session

H. CON. RES. 237

Authorizing the use of the rotunda of the Capitol for the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots.


February 22, 2010

Mrs. DAVIS of California (for herself and Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN) submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on House Administration


Authorizing the use of the rotunda of the Capitol for the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots.

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring),


The rotunda of the United States Capitol is authorized to be used on March 10, 2010, for a ceremony to present the Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots. Physical preparations for the conduct of the ceremony shall be carried out in accordance with such conditions as may be prescribed by the Architect of the Capitol.

B-402186, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, February 1, 2010

February 24, 2010 at 10:14 am | Posted in Space Law | Leave a comment

by P.J. Blount with the blog faculty

The GAO has released its bid protest decision in B-402186, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, February 1, 2010 (PDF):


Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX), of Hawthorne, California, protests the issuance of delivery order No. 0026 to Orbital Sciences Corporation, of Dulles, Virginia, by the Department of the Air Force, Space Missile Systems Command, on behalf of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), for space launch services for NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission. SpaceX argues that the issuance of the delivery order to Orbital violates the Commercial Space Act of 1998 (“Space Act”), 42 U.S.C. sect. 14701 et seq. (2006) with regard to the Act’s requirements to acquire launch services from United States commercial providers, and to notify Congress of the conversion of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) assets for use in space launches.

We deny the protest.

Federal Register: Procedures to Govern the Use of Satellite Earth Stations on Board Vessels in the 5925-6425 MHz/3700-4200 MHz Bands and 14.0-14.5 GHz/ 11.7-12.2 GHz Bands

February 23, 2010 at 10:55 am | Posted in Space Law | Leave a comment

by P.J. Blount with the blog faculty

The FCC published a new rule on Procedures to Govern the Use of Satellite Earth Stations on Board Vessels in the 5925-6425 MHz/3700-4200 MHz Bands and 14.0-14.5 GHz/ 11.7-12.2 GHz Bands in today’s Federal Register (74 Fed. Reg. 7975-7976):

SUMMARY: In this document, the Commission announces that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has approved, for a period of three years, the information collection requirements associated with Sections 25.221(b)(1)(i) through (iii), 25.222(b)(1)(i) through (iii), 25.221(b)(1)(iv)(A), (B), 25.222(b)(1)(iv)(A), (B), 25.221(b)(2)(i) through (v), 25.222(b)(2)(i) through (v), 25.221(b)(4) and 25.222(b)(4) of the Commission’s rules, and that these rules will take effect as of the date of this notice. On September 15, 2009, the Commission published the summary document of the Order on Reconsideration, In the Matter of Procedures to Govern the Use of Satellite Earth Stations on Board Vessels in the 5925-6425 MHz/3700-4200 MHz Bands and 14.0-14.5 GHz/11.7-12.2 GHz, IB Docket No. 02-10, FCC 09-63, at 74 FR 47100. This published item stated that the Commission will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing when OMB approval for the rule sections which contain information collection requirements has been received and when the revised rules will take effect. This notice is consistent with the statement in the published summary document of the Order on Reconsideration.

Now Available Without Charge – Space Law: Selected Documents 2009, vols. 1 & 2 A Supplement to Journal of Space Law

February 22, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Posted in NCRSASL News, Space Law | Leave a comment

by Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz with the blog faculty

The National Center for Remote Sensing, Air, and Space Law is pleased to make available, without charge, Space Law; Selected Documents 2009, Vols. 1 and 2 . It is a compilation of space law documents from the year 2009 that were gathered primarily from postings placed on Res Communis from 1 January through 31 December 2009. The postings are supplemented with materials from other sources that were published in 2009 . The compilation is a special supplement to the Journal of Space Law, the world’s oldest law review dedicated to space law. The Journal of Space Law, beginning with the first volume, is available on line through HeinOnLine.

This year, for the first time, the annual Selected Space Law Documents consists of two volumes.  Volume 1 includes  national space law documents and Volume 2 includes international space law.

Library: A Round-up of Reading

February 22, 2010 at 9:37 am | Posted in Library | Leave a comment

Space: UK

Upcoming hearings and other criticism of NASA – Space Politics

Will Congress keep US space programme adrift? – Hyperbola

Seoul Open to Talks on Missile Defense with Washington – MDAA

Obama: “my commitment to NASA is unwavering” – Space Politics

Frontiers in Space – Arms Control Wonk

India Remote Sensing Data Policy (continued) – Spatial Law and Policy

Prestige, Power Projection, International Cooperation, and Space – Space Issues

More about COTS funding boost – RLV and Space Transport News

Statements form the Conference on Disarmament

February 19, 2010 at 11:21 am | Posted in Space Law | Leave a comment

by P.J. Blount with the blog faculty

Statements that mention space from the February 18, 2010 plenary meeting of the Conference on Disarmament:

Australia – Ambassador Woolcott

Pakistan – Ambassador Akram

EU Aviation Security Regulations

February 18, 2010 at 11:51 am | Posted in Aviation Law | Leave a comment

by P.J. Blount with the blog faculty

Two new European Union Commission Regulations have been published in the Official Journal of the European Union:

Commission Regulation (EU) No 133/2010 of 4 February 2010 amending Regulation (EC) No 820/2008 laying down measures for the implementation of the common basic standards on aviation security (1)

Commission Regulation (EU) No 134/2010 of 9 February 2010 amending Regulation (EC) No 820/2008 laying down measures for the implementation of the common basic standards on aviation security (1)

Remarks by the President in Conversation with the International Space Station Crew and the Space Shuttle Endeavour Crew via Satellite

February 18, 2010 at 11:40 am | Posted in Space Law | Leave a comment

by P.J. Blount with the blog faculty

From the White House:

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
February 17, 2010
Remarks by the President in Conversation with the International Space Station Crew and the Space Shuttle Endeavour Crew via Satellite

From the Roosevelt Room

5:20 P.M. EST


COMMANDER ZAMKA: Good morning from the International Space Station and from the Space Shuttle Endeavour, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s great to talk to you guys. I wanted to, first of all, just say that we’ve got a bunch of very excited young people here with us, along with a bunch of somewhat excited teachers. (Laughter.) We have one engineer and one member of Congress, so you’ve got a — and a whole bunch of press here, so it’s a pretty motley crew. And one President.

But I just wanted to let you guys know how proud we are of all of you at what you guys have been accomplishing. I’ve had a chance to take a look at what Tranquility Module is doing. Everybody here back home is excited about this bay on the world that you guys are opening up, and Stephen Colbert at least is excited about his treadmill. (Laughter.)

And so we just wanted to let you know that the amazing work that’s being done on the International Space Station not only by our American astronauts but also our colleagues from Japan and Russia is just a testimony to the human ingenuity; a testimony to extraordinary skill and courage that you guys bring to bear; and is also a testimony to why continued space exploration is so important, and is part of the reason why my commitment to NASA is unwavering.

But instead of me doing all the talking, I wanted you guys to maybe let us know what this new Tranquility Module will help you accomplish. One of the things that we’ve done with our NASA “Vision for the Future” is to extend the life of our participation in the Space Station. And so we just want to get a sense of the kind of research that you guys are doing, and then maybe I’ll turn it over to some young people to see if they’ve got any questions.

COMMANDER ZAMKA: Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. It is a large team effort. In front of you, you have the joint crew of Endeavour and the Space Station, and we are the ones that are fortunate enough to be able to accomplish this great mission together in space. But there are many thousands of people around the world that gave the best of themselves over many years in order to have the days that we’ve been having up here.

For your question, I’m going to turn it over to ISS Commander Jeff Williams.

COMMANDER WILLIAMS: Well, Mr. President, as you know, the ISS has been under assembly for many years, over a decade now. And as George said, it’s because of the efforts of thousands of people around the world among the international partnerships.

The arrival of this module means several things. It means, of course, that we — everybody is aware of this new grand view that we have of the world below us, and that brings a special significance. But the Tranquility Module also is going to serve as a gym, as a hygiene area, as a place a crew can maintain themselves for a long duration. And a long duration living and working in space is what the Space Station is all about — to do the research and the science necessary to take us beyond Earth orbit.

That was the ultimate purpose of the Space Station, and the arrival of this module will enable us to do that. And it really marks the end of the major assembly of at least the U.S. orbiting segment to — as we transition into full utilization of this magnificent orbiting laboratory.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you guys want to just mention some of the research and experiments that you can conduct on the Space Station that you could not be doing back here at home?

FLIGHT ENGINEER CREAMER: That’s a great question, Mr. President. Let me start off by saying one of the nice things about where we physically are right now is that we remove the effects of gravity, so we’re able to do experiments that involve the effect of gravity basically on Earth as we look at what happens with the absence of it.

For instance, when you do combustion studies, flames on Earth burn in a teardrop fashion because the air comes in from underneath it and feeds the flame, but we can’t do that here since the air doesn’t know where up is, there’s no convection. So the flames burn very purely in a ball.

In a similar sense, when we do cellular research for even — like for cancer research, for instance, on Earth the cells actually collapse under their own weight and so their growth on Earth are a little bit distorted. Here, without the gravity effect, we can grow cells very purely and understand the mechanisms by which they are replicating.

We’re also doing metallic research and materials research to help us understand how to make materials on Earth better, but also to find out what materials are better for long-duration missions and traveling beyond Earth’s orbit.

Some of the other experiments involve biological, where we actually have, for instance, butterflies up here and we watch the life process of the butterflies. Many, many experiments up and down the stack are quite exciting when we are able to remove the variable of gravity.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, some of the things that you talked about are in line with where we want to see NASA going increasingly: What are those transformational technologies that would allow us to potentially see space travel of longer durations? If we want to get to Mars, if we want to get beyond that, what kinds of technologies are going to be necessary in order for us to make sure that folks can get there in one piece and get back in one piece and that — the kinds of fuels that we use and the technologies we use are going to facilitate something that is actually feasible? And we’re very excited about the possibilities of putting more research dollars into some of these transformational technologies.

So we’re excited about what you’re doing and what folks back on Earth as part of NASA’s engineering teams and scientific teams are doing.

What I want to do is give some of these young people a chance to ask a couple of questions, but I’m not sure I’ve got any volunteers so I’m going to have to turn around — oh, look. (Laughter.) This is a serious bunch here, I can tell. So I’m going to hand the phone over to the first one — hold on — what’s your name?

Q Ruth.

THE PRESIDENT: This is Ruth, coming from North Carolina.

Q What are some of the benefits of exploring space as opposed to exploring other places on Earth?

THE PRESIDENT: Okay. A pretty serious question, guys. You better have a good answer — the NASA folks are sitting here listening. (Laughter.)

MISSION SPECIALIST: Ruth, I can tell you your curiosity reaches far, and so does ours. And that’s sort of the human spirit, to find out what can humans really do.
One thing that’s always been I think amazing to every person who travels in space is that the human body is adaptable to this environment. But adaptable in what way, and how does the human body and even the human brain adapt to this very, very different environment? Learning about how we, ourselves, work and how we can handle changes if we go somewhere very different than what we’re used to is something that’s valuable also on Earth, because our environment changes on Earth, too — and in terms of health and medicine, we understand better how our own bodies work. So there’s a lot to be learned.

THE PRESIDENT: All right, who’s next?

Q Mary.

THE PRESIDENT: All right, this is Mary coming at you.

Q What inspired you to become an astronaut?

THE PRESIDENT: Got any takers on that one?

MISSION SPECIALIST PATRICK: Mary, hello. This is Nick Patrick. The thing that inspired me to become an astronaut was watching the Apollo moon landings many, many years ago with my parents. I thought I wanted to be a space explorer then and I stuck to my dream. I stayed in school and I studied hard, and through schoolwork and also an interest in things like sailing and flying I was able to realize my dream.

So I would have some advice to all of you there, which is study really hard in school, listen to your teachers. They’re full of knowledge and experience that you really can use in whatever path your future life takes you along — whether it be engineering, science, a job in business, or even space exploration.

THE PRESIDENT: All right, let’s get — we have one of our young people from —

Q From Nebraska.

THE PRESIDENT: From Nebraska. And what’s your name?

Q Jordan.

THE PRESIDENT: This is Jordan from Nebraska.

Q Do you think it will ever be possible to create artificial gravity in space?

THE PRESIDENT: That’s a big physics question there, guys. Anybody want to tackle that one?

PILOT VIRTS: Hi, Jordan, this is Terry Virts here. And that’s a great question because one of the hard things about long-duration space flight is the human body dealing with weightlessness and a lack of gravity.

And one way you can create gravity is to spin things. If you take a bucket of water or paint you can spin it around and you’ll notice that the water stays pressed up against the bucket because you’re accelerating it. And so you can artificially create that acceleration that makes you feel like you’re in gravity just by rotating something like a centrifuge.

So it is possible, but to do that it requires a really large structure. And so that’s something that we haven’t done here on the Space Station, but that’s one way you can do it.

THE PRESIDENT: That was a great question. All right, we need a Michigan — we’ve got to make sure every state is represented here. What’s your name?

Q Shanae.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, go ahead and introduce yourself.

Q I was just wondering, what kind of training did you have to go through before you were able to get into space?

THE PRESIDENT: That was Shanae from Michigan.

MISSION SPECIALIST HIRE: Well, that’s a great question. You know, it takes a lot of experience to be an astronaut and it’s not just in one field. We’ve all been through many, many years of school, but also experience in our own fields. So we have engineers, scientists, mathematicians, medical doctors and physicists. We have quite a range of experience that become astronauts.

And the important thing is that you have a good, solid background in the technical fields — the science, the technology, the engineering and the math — to build on that, because once everyone comes and is selected as an astronaut, we all train generically for space flight, and then we train specifically for our mission.

For the International Space Station it’s a very complicated and very large spacecraft, so the training is over multiple years just for a specific flight. For the Space Shuttle, being a shorter-duration flight of just a couple of weeks, we still train for over one year just specifically on the task that we’ll accomplish on our mission.

So it’s quite a bit of time, but it certainly is worth it. It’s quite rewarding to us to be able to execute the mission that we’ve been training for, for so long.

THE PRESIDENT: And I think we need to have at least one Floridian — is that right? We already had a Floridian? Do we have every state covered so far?

All right, we’ve got time for a couple more questions. We were going to get a little gender balance here. (Laughter.) This young man back here, what’s your name?

Q Joseph.


Hold on one second. You’ve got a question from Joseph from Nebraska.

Q Are there any recognizable landmarks that you can see from space?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, the rumor was, is that you can see the Great Wall from space, but I’m not sure that’s true. So are there at least — if there aren’t manmade landmarks, are there some natural landmarks other than continents that you can see?

FLIGHT ENGINEER: Yes, Mr. President and Joseph, that’s a great question. Actually, one of the great — in this mission, we have a great window, big window, that we are really fascinated by the great view of the Earth. And, yes, we can see a lot of great landmarks. We can see the Golden Gate Bridge, the great skyscrapers in New York. And the Grand Canyon is just breathtaking. And also while in the night pass we can see all the lights — that means that the humans are active even in the night. And this is a great benefit that we all benefit from, being in space.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, there you go.

All right, we’ve got — looks like I’ve got a couple more questions. Hold on. What’s your name?

Q Barbara.

THE PRESIDENT: This is Barbara. From?

Q From Florida.

THE PRESIDENT: From Florida. Hold on.

Q Hi, I’m curious about the thoughts and emotions that you guys feel when you’re in space.

THE PRESIDENT: There you go. Do you start getting lonely? Do you feel a little claustrophobic?

MISSION SPECIALIST: That’s an excellent question, and I think that probably it ranges quite a bit over the period of a space shuttle mission, And I expect it probably varies quite a bit over the range of a long-duration mission.

Kind of starting off, for the shuttle mission, at least for me, I’ve done that twice now; you kind of get into orbit, and you’re just kind of finding the equivalent of your sea legs, if you will. And so you’re — you’ve arrived on orbit and you kind of have a feeling of joy, having accomplished it. Your body has just gone through kind of a little bit of a violent experience through the launch, and you have a little bit of adrenaline probably getting out of your system. So it’s a little bit of a joyous, giddy moment, at the same time that you’re disoriented as you deal with the first couple of hours of actually being on orbit.

After that passes, after a couple of days, for me it was kind of a sense of wonder as you explore what you can do in zero gravity and the things that you can see out the window and just how the entire complex works together to make it happen. So it’s just a sense of wonder.

After — a little while after that, I think you start to think a little bit about the people who are back on Earth that are most precious to you, and then that little bit of loneliness can kick in. And one of the really nice things that we have and the long-duration crews have is the opportunity to use a telephone or to perform a videoconference similar to like we’re doing with you guys with our families. And I think that’s really important for folks to maintain that contact when you’re up here on orbit.

Of course, you have your crew members, but you do really want to maintain those precious relationships with all your family members and friends that are on the ground. And they do a remarkable job actually supporting us while we’re in space to make sure that we can still speak with our families and that our families are informed and able to stay in contact with us.

But all those emotions kind of wrap up together. Kind of the final one is kind of when you do return to Earth and kick off all those relationships that, whether they were two weeks or six months later, have — time has passed and you have to kind of rebuild them a little bit. But it’s a very joyous experience, and something that you can share with both the people on the ground and the people who are part of your crew throughout the entire mission.

Great question.

THE PRESIDENT: All right. So I think we’re going to make this the last question. We’ve been keeping you guys overtime. So what’s your name?

Q Alex.

THE PRESIDENT: This is Alex. Hold on one sec.

Q Does being up in space allow you to see things such as the weather? Like could you see the storm over Washington?

THE PRESIDENT: That’s a good point. Obviously we’re using a lot of satellite imagery these days, and this is going to be a major focus of some of the work NASA is doing here at home, thinking about how we can get better information about our own climate. Is that something that you guys are tracking from the Space Station?

COMMANDER WILLIAMS: Well, we view a lot of the weather phenomena. We’ve seen many hurricanes and typhoons and whatnot around the world. We can see fronts crossing continents. We see the whole variety of cloud formations. We sometimes can see the aftermath of a storm or other major impact on the Earth after the sky clears.

So there’s a whole lot of details that we can see here from the Space Station — and observe every day. We can see things — we pass over the same portion of the Earth every day, so it’s a regular observation that we can make over a long period of time, as well.

THE PRESIDENT: You guys have been extraordinarily generous with your time, and I just want to repeat, and I think I speak for all the young people here, everybody back home, how proud we are of you, how excited we are about the work that’s being done on the Space Station, and how committed we are to continuing human space exploration in the future.

So you guys continue to be great pioneers and great role models for all of us, and we thank you for your courage. And tell your families we appreciate them letting you float up into space like this. (Laughter.) All right?

Bye-bye, guys.

5:41 P.M. EST

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