Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon,
I am very glad to have this chance to talk with you and congratulate you on Cosmonaut’s Day. I would particularly like to greet the crew commander and the engineer. My special congratulations to Nikolai Budarin who, I am told, recently had a granddaughter. Sincere congratulations. I would also like to wish Nikolai and Donald happy birthdays, which they will celebrate in orbit.
We have just been saying that you have been in orbit much longer than planned. It fell to you to ensure the uninterrupted human presence at the station in the dramatic weeks following the Columbia shuttle disaster.
You have fulfilled your task with flying colours, in spite of the fatigue, both physical and mental. It doesn’t take an expert to understand that. We feel for you and I must say that in Russia we all felt sympathy for the people of the United States when your colleagues and comrades died on February 1. It is a tragedy for all of us.
Today I would like to convey our respect for the courageous American astronauts. We are well aware of the contribution they have made and are making to the development of outer space. And we know of the spectacular successes they have scored in this arduous and dangerous endeavour. I am convinced that by pooling efforts, technologies, knowledge and expertise we will be able to make new steps for the sake of progress of the whole civilization. The creation of the ISS, where you are working now, is our common triumph. 19 countries took part in building it. And the station is already yielding concrete returns. Many experts are acquiring hands-on experience. It involves new technologies and some unique fundamental research. And, without exaggeration, it is an excellent experience of international cooperation.
Now that the operation of the shuttles has been suspended, it is important to keep the ISS working. We are aware of the responsibility of the Russian Federation in this connection. The problem was recently discussed at a Government meeting. A decision has been taken to expedite the use of the resources allocated this year for the construction of new spaceships. If necessary, Russia will consider increased participation in the situation that has arisen.
In conclusion, I would like to note that work in orbit will never be routine. It will always take not only good professional skills, but courage and a strong spirit to fulfill it. It will need the kind of people that we see on the screen before us. We are proud of you, we are waiting for your return and we wish you all the best.
We wish you success in your work and a safe landing on Earth. Once again congratulations on the holiday. Thank you again and best wishes.