German Chancellor Merkel calls ISS
"We are proud as Germans and Europeans that we could contribute to the ISS with Columbus. Europe now has a permanent base for research in space," highlighted German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the beginning of her in-flight call with ESA astronauts Hans Schlegel and Léopold Eyharts in Berlin earlier today.
Chancellor Merkel, ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain, Prof. Jan Wörner, Chairman of the Board of DLR, and Evert Dudok, CEO of Astrium Satellites, gathered today with Federal Minister Michael Glos at the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology in Berlin to obtain first-hand information from the ongoing Columbus delivery mission from the two European Astronauts. Over 100 media representatives and 300 guests took part in the event.
In space, STS-122 commander Steve Frick, mission specialists Hans Schlegel and Daniel Tani, Station Commander Peggy Whitson and flight engineers Yuri Malenchenko and Léopold Eyharts took part.
At 15:55 CET, live contact with the ISS was established and Chancellor Merkel spoke to the astronauts, underlining that Columbus symbolises Europe's commitment to space activities.
She was eager to hear from German ESA astronaut Hans Schlegel what his feelings are during the commissioning of the Columbus Module. "We as a crew are feeling very good," said Schlegel. He enthusiastically reported on his extra vehicular activity of yesterday, during which he installed a new nitrogen tank assembly on the P1 truss.
Schlegel pointed out that to see the Earth from that angle was fantastic: "I realised that our Earth is nothing other than a big mother ship. The colours are so soft and I really hope that the images that we send down to Earth help to raise everybody's conscience on how important it is to protect our Earth."
Addressing French ESA astronaut Léopold Eyharts, ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain expressed his belief that the European scientific community will effectively use Columbus as a space laboratory, and he gave his outlook on the future use of the ISS.
He pointed out that "Columbus' visibility has changed the space station." Dordain also spoke with Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, who will support the docking of ESA's ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) to the Russian module.
Chancellor Merkel and ESA Director General Dordain concluded the in-flight call with best wishes to the ISS crew and for the rest of the STS-122 mission, which will end on Wednesday, February 20, with the return of Space Shuttle Atlantis to Cape Canaveral.
Audio transcript - ESA astronauts Hans Schlegel and Leopold Eyharts together with colleagues in live call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain (stream mp3)
If the Flash audio player is not visible in this page, download the audio transcript file here (mp3).