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Putin Stresses Need To Maintain International Space Station

Moscow Confirms It's Stepping Up To The Teller Window

Russian President Vladimir Putin has reaffirmed the need to maintain the International Space Station in functioning condition. "Now that shuttle flights have been suspended, it is important to preserve the ISS in operational condition," Putin said during a radio- link session with the ISS crew.

The current crew is spending extra time in orbit. "You had to ensure non-stop manned operation of the station in the sad weeks following the Columbia tragedy. You've coped with the task brilliantly," he told the crewmembers.

Expression Of Grief

Russians sincerely regret "the death of your colleagues and comrades, this tragedy was felt by everyone on Earth," he said. The Russian government is re-channeling financing to build additional ships to be launched into orbit, he said. "Should it become necessary, consideration will be given to widening Russia's involvement in ISS efforts," he said.

Putin also extended his best wishes to Russian cosmonaut Nikolai Budarin and US astronauts Ken Bowersox and Donald Petitt on Space Day. "Work in orbit will never become routine. People who do this work must not only be real professionals but also brave and strong people like you," he said.

And By The Way, You're A Grandpa

Putin also congratulated Budarin on the birth of his granddaughter, wishing Budarin and Petitt joyful birthday celebrations at the station. Bowersox thanked Putin for wishing them well and reiterated the need for Russian-US partnership.

FMI: www.spaceflight.nasa.gov

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