A Very Long Distance Call

"Hello Tom and Ray, this is John from Houston. I occasionally drive this government vehicle..."

Tom and Ray with aliens So began one of the more interesting calls we've ever had on Car Talk--a call from Mission Specialist John Grunsfeld, a real-life, genuine space shuttle astronaut bumping around the insides of the Shuttle Atlantis.

The call was a complete surprise. When we finally got it through our thick noggins who was on the other end of the line, we were completely dumbfounded.

Tom and Ray fixing the shuttle Of course, this is hardly the first time we've been surprised by a call. There was the call from Jay Leno, while he was tooling around Hollywood Boulevard; Iowa's Senator Tom Harkin called in during recess; even that little twerp from Seattle, Melissa, has caught us off-guard.

More recently, we were somewhat surprised to hear FCC Chairman Reed Hundt on the line when we answered the phone. Oh and Dougie, thanks for the careful call screening. You might as well just put the cuffs on us and pull the plug on the transmitter.

Tom in space Anyway, the call from Atlantis is this week's Car Talk moment. We hope you enjoy it. We sure did--once we figured out what was going on.




Who knows what is in store for us next? This will be a tough one to top.

P.S. We generally don't like to take calls from people who are driving--it's not safe. But, we figured we'd make an exception in this case. I mean, what are they going to hit? Mir? Big deal.


Space Shuttle Tech Specs

Data based on cartalk.com staff estimates

Type SRBGT (Solid Rocket Boosters)
Cylinders 200
Horsepower 234,685
Orbiter Engine 38 primary and 6 vernier RCS
Capacity 19,000 cubic feet (liquid oxygen)
Capacity 48,000 cubic feet (liquid hydrogen)
MPG Earth .02
MPG Space 23,000
0-60 4.8 seconds
60-10,000 mph 12 minutes
Orbiter Velocity 17,322 statue mph
Deorbiter Velocity 17,117 mph
Touchdown Speed 213-225 mph
Layout 15 ft in diameter, 60 ft long
Orbiter (Atlantis) empty and 3 SSME's 180,713
Shuttle System and SRB Ignition 4,510,780
Orbiter Weight at Landing with Cargo 249,936
Spacehab-Double Module 10,525
Orbiter Docking System 4,016
Ground Clearance Exceptional
Seating capacity 7 adults comfortably, 10 in a tight squeeze; 2 monkeys, and 1 ant farm
Cargo Area 12,345 cubic feet (payload door closed)
Color White with ceramic tiles
Radio AM/FM Stereo Cassette
Exterior Power sliding moonroof with tilt feature and sliding moonshade.
Security Remote keyless entry and vehicle security system.
Base price $421,400,000.00 if purchased before 3/97. Must take delivery from models currently in production.