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Obama to U.S. astronauts: Check my Chicago lawn. Abuse of power?

May 21, 2009 |  5:44 am

Chicago Satellite Image

It's a time-honored tradition of presidents greeting and then talking with American astronauts as they soar above the Earth.

So late Wednesday President Obama, obviously without a prepared text or TelePrompter, had a brief pleasant chat with the crew of Atlantis that's just finished fixing the Hubble Space Telescope for the final time and is scheduled to return home Friday.

You'll be surprised to know that the crew commander was very honored to talk with the nation's new chief executive and Obama was tremendously impressed with the wonderful job they're doing on behalf of the American people and humankind and the ongoing quest for knowledge and how typically American it is to explore such new frontiers with ingenuity.Barack Obama's Chicago House looks very small from space

The president also saw space flight as an example of how people can work together. Now, what would make a resident of Washington think of such a thing? Anyway, their flight is also "an example of what vision means."

“I've been watching with amazement the gorgeous images you've been sending back and the incredible repair mission you've been making in space,” he added.

The president said that NASA and the space program, like pretty much every other thing he's talked about since Jan. 20, is "a high priority of mine" because he wants "to provide that sense of wonder that space can provide."

Noting that two of the Atlantis crew are from Illinois, the president asked good-naturedly if they could see if his South Side Chicago home lawn was getting mowed because he hasn't been there in a few weeks. The crew said they'd need Hubble to do that. But we dug up satellite photos of the president's Hyde Park house. It looks OK.

You can hear pretty clear audio of the president's conversation with the Atlantis astronauts cruising some 200 miles over the southern Pacific by clicking here. (Might take a moment to load.)

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: (Satellite image of Chicago area; Obama's lawn is the spot of green just in from the lake by the big tree); Associated Press (Obama's Chicago home looks much smaller from space).