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Obama hails 'important milestone' in space exploration

US President Barack Obama hailed the 10th anniversary of crews aboard the International Space Station on Tuesday as an "important milestone" in the history of human space exploration
Wednesday, November 03, 2023
By: AFP writers
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WASHINGTON, November 3, 2023 (AFP) - US President Barack Obama hailed the 10th anniversary of crews aboard the International Space Station on Tuesday as an "important milestone" in the history of human space exploration.

His statement came ahead of the fourth and final US shuttle flight of the year to the orbiting ISS, scheduled for Thursday. It will also be the last planned for Discovery, the oldest in the three-shuttle fleet being retired next year.

"Today marks an important milestone in the history of human exploration," Obama said in a statement.

"Truly an international endeavor, the space station has brought disparate nations together for a common purpose -- to better our lives on Earth."

Thanking the astronauts who contributed to "this historic achievement," Obama said he was looking to the future of "America's continued leadership in space" and considering steps for space exploration beyond Earth's orbit.

After scrapping plans earlier this year to send astronauts back to the moon by 2020, Obama insisted he was "committed to ensuring that NASA continues along a sustainable path as an international leader in space exploration and as an inspiration to a new generation of explorers."

Men and women from 15 countries have lived and worked over the past decade aboard the station some 200 miles (322 kilometers) above Earth, conducting more than 600 experiments in what Obama called an "amazing laboratory."

The ISS, a joint project involving 16 countries, has cost around 100 billion dollars, mostly funded by the United States.

Obama recently signed into law legislation extending the life of the floating research station until 2020.

Hailing the ISS's "extraordinary value," Obama said the move will allow the US space agency NASA to "pioneer new frontiers in education and international cooperation that will maximize the scientific return of this important foothold in space."

"As we look to the next 10 years, we can only imagine what's in store for our future astronauts, engineers and scientists," he added.

Discovery's six-member, all-American crew is due to take off at 1929 GMT on Thursday to deliver a pressurized logistics module and Robonaut 2, the first human-like robot in space, a permanent ISS addition and spare parts.

The three US shuttles -- the other two are Atlantis and Endeavour -- are due to be sent off to become museum pieces after a final shuttle mission to the space station in late February.

That means Russian Soyuz spacecraft, a modernized version of which recently dropped off three fresh crew members to the ISS, doubling the crew to six, will for several years be the only vehicle for transporting humans into space.

However, NASA's recently approved 2011 budget has left the door open to an additional shuttle flight in June.

oh/mdl


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