The President. Good afternoon. I'm glad to be joined by my science and technology adviser, Dr. Jack Gibbons, to make a few comments about today's announcement by NASA.
This is the product of years of exploration and months of intensive study by some of the world's most distinguished scientists. Like all discoveries, this one will and should continue to be reviewed, examined, and scrutinized. It must be confirmed by other scientists. But clearly, the fact that something of this magnitude is being explored is another vindication of America's space program and our continuing support for it, even in these tough financial times. I am determined that the American space program will put its full intellectual power and technological prowess behind the search for further evidence of life on Mars.
First, I have asked Administrator Goldin to ensure that this finding is subject to a methodical process of further peer review and validation. Second, I have asked the Vice President to convene at the White House before the end of the year a bipartisan space summit on the future of America's space program. A significant purpose of this summit will be to discuss how America should pursue answers to the scientific questions raised by this finding. Third, we are committed to the aggressive plan we have put in place for robotic exploration of Mars. America's next unmanned mission to Mars is scheduled to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center in November. It will be followed by a second mission in December. I should tell you that the first mission is scheduled to land on Mars on July 4th, 1997, Independence Day.
It is well worth contemplating how we reached this moment of discovery. More than 4 billion years ago, this piece of rock was formed as a part of the original crust of Mars. After billions of years it broke from the surface and began a 16-million-year journey through space that would end here on Earth. It arrived in a meteor shower 13,000 years ago. And in 1984 an American scientist on an annual U.S. Government mission to search for meteors on Antarctica picked it up and took it to be studied. Appropriately, it was the first rock to be picked up that year, rock number 84001.
Today, rock 84001 speaks to us across all those billions of years and millions of miles. It speaks of the possibility of life. If this discovery is confirmed, it will surely be one of the most stunning insights into our universe that science has ever uncovered. Its implications are as far reaching and awe inspiring as can be imagined. Even as it promises answers to some of our oldest questions, it poses still others even more fundamental. We will continue to listen closely to what it has to say as we continue the search for answers and for knowledge that is as old as humanity itself but essential to our people's future.
Q. Mr. President, Republicans right now are going through a wrenching abortion debate. At the same time, pro-choice advocates have created the pro-choice public education project, they're calling it. They say abortion rights are under a very grave danger. Would you agree with that assessment? And what do you think of the Republicans' troubles?
The President. Well, they are only under grave danger if the election results in a change in the occupant of the White House. But what I think about the—I'd like to just compare it with what we did in the Democratic Party. Some of our pro-life members asked for a conscience clause in the Democratic platform. And I thought it was a good idea; I recommended it. The platform committee unanimously embraced it. And the Democratic Party was proud to do it. We believe this is a matter which should be left to private conscience. And we believe that people who have pro-life convictions should be respected.
What you see here in the Republican Party is more of the extremism that we saw manifested in their budget proposals, their environmental proposals, their opposition to sensible crime proposals in the previous 2 years. And it's lamentable. It's not good for the country. And I would just say that in this convention season, we would welcome thoughtful, moderate, concerned Republicans, independents, to join our party this year and to help keep moving America forward and bringing America together.
Q. You do not feel the rights are under grave danger at this point?
The President. Well, right now we have a Supreme Court decision and an administration committed to the pro-choice position and committing to doing whatever we can to keep the Government out of that decision but to take initiatives that would reduce the number of abortions in America, including the recent tax credit for adoption that we strongly supported that will be part of the minimum wage bill when it comes to me for signature. So I'm determined to protect those rights and to keep the Government out of it. But it is fair to say that in this election that is one of the matters at issue. Yes, it is fair to say that.
President's Olympic Tie
Q. Where did you get that tie?
The President. It's an Olympic tie. I got it down at the Olympics. Do you want to trade? [Laughter]