Nation : Bush Talks With Astronauts in Orbit

<i> From Times wire services</i>

Discovery’s astronauts took a long-distance call today from President Bush and set off a spectacular ice storm in space.

Reviving a presidential space tradition that had lapsed since 1985, Bush praised shuttle commander Michael L. Coats and his crew as “today’s pioneers,” invited the Discovery astronauts and their families to visit the White House and pledged “to go forward with a strong, active space program.”

The astronauts also thrilled Mission Control with video of a 10-minute artificial blizzard--23 pounds of water that turned instantly to ice off Discovery’s port wing during a routine fuel cell purge.