This morning President Obama was joined by Congressional leaders and middle school students from the Washington, DC area in the Roosevelt Room to congratulate the astronauts on the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle Discovery on their successful ongoing mission.
They spent some time talking about solar power from very different perspective:
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's great. We are really excited about the project that you're doing. My understanding is, is that you are installing some additional solar panels on the space station, and that's actually going to increase the number of people that can work out of the space station, is that correct?
MISSION SPECIALIST PHILLIPS: Sir, that's correct. We've roughly doubled the amount of solar power available for experimentation and for supporting a larger crew, and we hope to go to a crew of six and a more aggressive experimental program this year.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, this is really exciting, because we're investing back here on the ground a whole array of solar and other renewable energy projects, and so to find out that you're doing this up at the space station is particularly exciting.
Can I ask, how exactly do you end up installing these solar panels? What's involved? Somebody want to give us a rundown on how you go about doing it?
MISSION SPECIALIST SWANSON: Yes, sir. First it comes up on a truss segment, about five feet long. We use a robotic arm to attach it to the -- into another truss segment. And then once that's attached and bolted on through spacewalks, then we'll go ahead and unfurl or actually deploy the solar rays in a position so that we can unfurl from inside during the commanding with new software.
THE PRESIDENT: About how long does it take?
MISSION SPECIALIST SWANSON: It takes about, to put it all together, about six hours, but you actually do the commanding to actually deploy them out to their full length -- it takes about two hours.