Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on Commercial Space Initiatives

July 21, 1984

My fellow Americans:

Yesterday we marked the 15th anniversary of the first manned landing on the Moon. We all remember that great moment when Neil Armstrong said, "Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." But that wasn't our last great moment in space. In fact, it's become increasingly clear that most of our great moments are ahead of us.

For 25 years, we approached space with a certain amount of derring-do. It was the last frontier, and we would be its first pioneers. Space seemed like a vast, black desert, but now we're ready to make the desert bloom.

I'm talking about opening space up to business, to private enterprise; opening space up to commerce and experimentation and development. Why? To improve the quality of life on Earth. We've learned in the past few years that in the zero gravity of space it's possible to manufacture drugs and pharmaceuticals of a purity much greater than is possible on Earth—and in much greater quantities.

The zero gravity of space is allowing us in the space shuttle and soon in a manned space station to experiment with new drugs and new cures for diseases. Do you have a friend or relative with diabetes? Some scientists believe that in space it's possible they may be able to produce a cure for diabetes within the next decade.

In space we also find new opportunities for important breakthroughs in cancer research. Now, cancer research is one of those phrases that to some people means we're still thinking and getting nowhere. But a number of scientists now believe that a cure for some types of cancer might be produced in space sometime in the not-too-distant future.

That's not all. In space we can manufacture crystals that have many times the yield and purity of those made on Earth. These will help maintain America's leadership in the computer industry. We can also develop new metals that are lighter and stronger than any we've ever known.

So, the promise and the potential are there. And private industry, private research groups, medical groups, and all sorts of businesses want to get up into space and invest. But it's very costly. It'll involve long-term investment, commitment, and imagination.

For the past year now, our administration has been studying ways to encourage private investment and development. And we've come up with a number of new initiatives to achieve that goal. These initiatives don't involve a special interest treatment of any sort. What they come down to is a policy designed to do away with laws that inadvertently discriminate against companies that do business in space rather than on the ground.

We also want to make sure these companies are not stymied by needless regulation. For example, the way the law is written now, products made in space might be subject to import tariffs because they weren't made in America. Well, we're going to change that. Another example: Businesses which operate at home receive various kinds of tax incentives. But, again, as the laws are written now, space products companies would not receive those incentives. We'll be looking at that, too.

Also, to encourage research and development, we've been working in partnership with industry and academia to expand basic research opportunities, achieve new breakthroughs, and give U.S.. companies making space-age products a boost on the way to the marketplace.

As our country moves into high-tech industries, space will be a big part of the future. As space-related businesses take off, the economy will benefit. Ultimately, it could well mean tens of thousands of jobs, billions of dollars in new foreign trade, and tens of billions of dollars added to the gross national product.

Some of our new initiatives will be accomplished through Executive order. Others will require congressional action. We're confident that these measures will win considerable support.

I'm proud of our work in this area, of our ability to recognize what private companies have recognized: that we have cultivated space for the past 25 years, and now is the harvest time. Now is the time to reap the practical fruits of all that daring.

You know, we've been hearing a lot lately from politicians who keep talking about how dark the future is. Well, I think the narrowness of their vision stems from a kind of blindness to the adventure that technology continues to offer us. Those folks have such a strangled sense of possibilities. But in space, the possibilities are endless. It's good news for all mankind and for our country.

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, MD.

Ronald Reagan, Radio Address to the Nation on Commercial Space Initiatives Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives