Queen Elizabeth II speaks to the ISS – or at least listens

by Chris Bergin

In a unique and historic event, Queen Elizabeth II virtually met with the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday. The Queen took the opportunity on the final leg of the royal tour of the United States.

The event, which was opened by Cambridge native and US astronaut Mike Foale, was conducted at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, involving Suni Williams, Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov of ISS Expedition 15.

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Although the Queen did not ask any questions of the ISS crew – which was unexpected and may have been pre-planned – Foale set up the ISS crew with set standard questions about the ISS and its role in the future exploration of NASA.

As the ISS passed over the US and out of video communication with Goddard, the Queen met with NASA’s administrator Mike Griffin and Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA Associate Administrator for Space Operation, who again made a point of speaking about the return to the moon.

Griffin introduced the ISS expeditions as the modern day equivalent of Captain Cook’s crew on board Endeavour. The Queen then asked a few questions of Foale, asking about the duration crew members spend onboard the ISS.

‘How many times have you been into space,’ the Queen asked of Foale, who noted his involvement on six flights. ‘My most recent was as commander of the International Space Station in 2003 to 2004. I spent six months there with one Russian.

‘Since then we’ve added one crew member…we saw Suni Williams and she’s been there five months.’

‘So what sort of length of time, is it basically six months?’ Asked the Queen, inquiring as to how long crewmembers spend on board the ISS. ‘Typically six months, although it depends on when Shuttles can (rotate) crews,’ Foale noted. ‘But six months is what we shoot for.

‘You get lonely sometimes, but we have contact with our families, and talk once a day. We don’t get to touch and feel and see them so much though.

Her Majesty did seem to be interested in what was being said, saying ‘fascinating’ a number of times, although there will be disappointment that the Queen did not get to actually ask a question of the crew.

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