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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says he is extraordinarily proud of the astronauts aboard the linked shuttle-space station complex.

During a video conference call Tuesday, Obama questioned the 10 astronauts about everything from how fast they are traveling and exercise in space to what they do besides working on experiments and how weightlessness affects their sleep.

Students from Washington area middle schools and members of Congress joined him for the call.

The crew will spend Tuesday recuperating from Monday's third and final spacewalk of the Discovery shuttle's mission. The hatches between Discovery and the international space station will be sealed Wednesday. The shuttle will undock and head for home, landing Saturday.

A briefing from the president

Here are summaries of remarks President Barack Obama made in Tuesday night's news conference.

THE MIDEAST: Even as a hard-line Israeli government takes shape, Obama said he still believes it's possible to achieve peace. Asked about the incoming government led by a prime minister who has said Palestinians are not ready for statehood. Obama reaffirmed the U.S. goal of a two-state solution, where he said Israelis and Palestinians can live "side by side" with "peace and security." Obama said his choice of George Mitchell as Mideast envoy was a signal that he's serious about trying to move the parties toward that goal.

RACE: Obama said Americans are judging him by the job he's doing, not the color of his skin. He said that's the way he should be judged. He said there was justifiable pride in January when he was inaugurated as the first black president. He said that step beyond the nation's searing legacy of racial discrimination lasted about a day.

HOMELESSNESS: At a time when millions of Americans are losing their jobs and their homes, the president said he's "heartbroken" that any children are without a roof over their heads. Obama said the "most important thing" that he can do for those children is make sure that their parents have jobs. And the president said there needs to be a "change in attitude" in the country, so that it isn't seen as "acceptable" for children and families to be homeless.

VETERANS: Obama said he can save money on defense and veterans' programs by targeting the way the military buys equipment. He said the country can remain safe and make sure veterans have the services they deserve. He said he wants to serve veterans and reduce military spending by keeping close tabs on the way contractors and lobbyists do business. He noted that he's already targeted $40 billion in procurement savings.

CONFIDENCE: Obama said after some 60 days in office, he's confident the country is headed in the right direction. He said he would follow a "philosophy of persistence" in foreign and domestic affairs. The president said it would be important to acknowledge mistakes and admit that he doesn't always have the right answers and just "keep working at it." He said he was confident that after four years in office, Americans would recognize that he got the nation on the right course.

STEM CELLS: Obama said lifting a federal ban on embryonic stem cell research was the "right thing to do and the ethical thing to do." He said he wrestled with the ethics of the decision but is hopeful that the science will lead to help for people with debilitating diseases. He said he has no interest in causing controversy, as the stem cell decision did. But, he said, he will not make a decision on a matter like stem cells based on what he called a rigid, ideological approach. Earlier Tuesday, Bishop John D'Arcy, whose diocese includes the University of Notre Dame, said he will boycott Obama's May 17 commencement speech at the Catholic school because of the president's support for abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says he is extraordinarily proud of the astronauts aboard the linked shuttle-space station complex.

During a video conference call Tuesday, Obama questioned the 10 astronauts about everything from how fast they are traveling and exercise in space to what they do besides working on experiments and how weightlessness affects their sleep.

Students from Washington area middle schools and members of Congress joined him for the call.

The crew will spend Tuesday recuperating from Monday's third and final spacewalk of the Discovery shuttle's mission. The hatches between Discovery and the international space station will be sealed Wednesday. The shuttle will undock and head for home, landing Saturday.

03/24/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 10:00am]
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