The President and students talk to astronauts.

The President and students talk to astronauts.

President Obama called the International Space Station crew—including Nicholas Patrick SM ’90, PhD ’96 and Tim “T.J.” Creamer SM ’92—Wednesday to say thanks for installing the beautiful picture window and to let a group of excited middle school students ask the astronauts some questions.

In the course of the conversation, Obama made a pitch for continued space exploration and the astronauts pointed out the value of research in space. Scientists can study the impact of gravity, for example, because they see what happens without it—flames in space are ball-shaped not tear-drop shaped and cells grow “very purely” and stay round and so it’s easier to see how they are replicated.

Kwatsi Alibaruho '95 describes his personal journey to the NASA control room.

Kwatsi Alibaruho '95 describes his personal journey to the NASA control room.

Factoid: This is the 13th time in history that two or more MIT Astronauts are in space at the same time. In fact, the lead flight director on the current mission is an alumnus as well. Kwatsi Alibaruho ’95, the first African-American NASA flight director, describes in a YouTube video how he set his goal of going to MIT when he was ten—and that successful journey eventually led him to his position at NASA.