Two astronauts joined the millions of Americans who watched now-President Barack Obama's inauguration Tuesday, even though they were flying high above Earth aboard the International Space Station.
Space station commander Michael Fincke and flight engineer Sandra Magnus, both of NASA, took some time out of their busy day to watch live TV coverage of Obama's inauguration in Washington, D.C., from their perch 220 miles (354 km) above Earth.
"Congratulations on a new president and a new administration," Fincke told flight controllers on Earth after Obama officially became the 44th U.S. president.
Fincke was able to vote from space during the 2008 presidential election while aboard the space station thanks to a special Texas law that allows astronauts in orbit to participate in local elections in Houston, Texas.
He has lived aboard the station since last October, with Magnus joining his Expedition 18 crew a month later.
Tuesday's inauguration, like any major news event, was beamed up to the space station from Mission Control live when possible, NASA spokesperson Kylie Clem told SPACE.com from the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
A constant signal is not always possible as the space station orbits the Earth, she added.
"The activities today, as much as possible, were being uplinked live," said Clem, adding that Fincke and his crew had the option of looking in on the news during the occasional break from their workday. "It will also be recorded and uploaded later so they can look at it then."
Astronauts have lived aboard the International Space Station since October 2000, making Obama's inauguration the third to be witnessed from the orbiting laboratory following the 2001 and 2005 inaugurations of President George W. Bush.
Fincke said he, Magnus and their Russian crewmate Yury Lonchakov were also excited to see TV coverage of the inaugural parade Tuesday.
Their most recent visitors, NASA's STS-126 astronaut crew of the space shuttle Endeavour, will be marching in the parade along with a new moon-rover prototype.
Magnus arrived at the space station last November with the STS-126 crew to replace NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff, who returned to Earth aboard Endeavour.
"The next best thing to being in the parade will be to watch it from the comfort of our own space station," Fincke told Mission Control.
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