[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[April 14, 1998]
[Page 557]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 557]]

Remarks in a Telephone Conversation From Houston, Texas, With Astronauts 
at Kennedy Space Center in Florida
April 14, 1998

    The President. Are you ready?
    Lt. Col. Richard A. Searfoss. Yes.
    The President. Well, you're looking good. I hope you find out a lot 
of things about the human neurological system to help me, because I'm 
moving into those years where I'm getting dizzy and I'm having all these 
problems--[laughter]--and I expect you to come back with all the 
    Lieutenant Colonel Searfoss. Well, 
thank you, Mr. President. We'll take that on board as one of the 
challenges that we'll try to meet. [Laughter]
    If you'd like, Mr. President, I'll introduce my crew to you.
    The President. I'd like that. And anything you want to tell me about 
the mission, I'd be glad to hear it.
    Lieutenant Colonel Searfoss. My name 
is Rick Searfoss. I'm the commander of the flight. It will be my third 
shuttle mission. Right next to me, my immediate right, is Scott Altman. 
He will be the pilot on the flight. Next to him, Kay Hire, our flight 
engineer. Our payload crew consists of four doctors--right next to me, 
Rick Linnehan, who is a DVM, veterinarian. And behind us, Drs. Buckey 
and Williams are medical doctors; and Jim Pawelczyk is a physiologist, a 
Ph.D. researcher. So, as you can see, we've got some great science 
expertise to do the onboard portion of this mission.
    The President. Just very briefly--you know, I've got the whole 
national press here with me, so why don't you briefly describe what the 
purpose of the mission is and what some of the things you're going to be 
exploring are.
    Lieutenant Colonel Searfoss. 
Absolutely. The fundamental, overriding question that is consistent 
across all 26 of our experiments, Mr. President, is that what happens, 
in a very detailed sort of way that we want to understand, to the 
nervous and neurological processes and systems when you take the certain 
variable away that we just can't take away on Earth, and that's, of 
course, gravity.
    I'm going to turn it over just for a minute or two to Dr. Linnehan, 
who is our payload commander, and he can give you a few more details on 
    Dr. Richard M. Linnehan. Yes, sir. 
Mr. President, we have 26 major experiments that deal all the way from 
the vestibular system, which is the inner ear, how we interpret balance 
on Earth as opposed to in space, up to neuronal plasticity, which really 
is just another way of saying how the brain heals or rewires itself in 
terms of damage or new adaptations in space.
    The President. That's great. Well, we're all excited about it. We're 
anxious to see you get off and anxious to see you come home safely, full 
of information.
    One of the general points that I want to make with all of you here, 
that I have tried to make both to the Congress and to the Nation, is 
that the space program has enormous potential to change life here on 
Earth for the better, in a health way, in a way that you're exploring, 
in environmental ways, and in other ways as well. So this is a 
particularly exciting mission to me, because I believe it will help to 
strengthen the support of the rank and file Americans for our NASA 
operations, generally. And I'm very grateful to you.
    Good luck, and have a great time out there. Thank you.
    Lieutenant Colonel Searfoss. Thank 
you very much, Mr. President; we appreciate it.
    The President. Goodbye. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:25 p.m. from the Lyndon B. Johnson Space 
Center with Lt. Col. Richard A. Searfoss, USAF, mission commander; and 
Dr. Richard M. Linnehan, mission specialist. During the telephone 
conversation, the following crewmembers were referred to: Lt. Comdr. 
Scott D. Altman, USN, pilot; Comdr. Kathryn P. Hire, USNR, flight 
engineer; Dr. Dafydd Rhys Williams, mission specialist; and Dr. Jay 
Clark Buckey, Jr., and James A. Pawelczyk, payload specialists. Health 
sciences mission STS-90 was scheduled for lift-off aboard the space 
shuttle Columbia on April 16.