Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks Congratulating the Crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery

October 14, 1988

The President. Three weeks ago in Houston I met with Rick Hauck, Dick Covey, Pinky Nelson, Mike Lounge, and Dave Hilmers to wish them Godspeed as they prepared for their important journey. Today let us just say to our five brave countrymen: Thank you for taking us with you into space, and bless you for your courage. And on behalf of every American, welcome home.

The Vice President was right last night: You are America's heroes. You are his heroes and mine. You're each veterans of the space program, and what you have done for the program and for your country will be long remembered. At a time when it counted, you stepped forward to help return America to space, to once again live the dream—and for all of us, to help keep that dream alive. You, the astronauts, and the entire team that made the mission of the Discovery a success deserve the praise of a grateful nation.

I also want to salute the engineering and technical crew responsible for the redesign of the space shuttle. It was a job well-done. More than 400 design changes were made involving the orbiter, booster rockets, external tank, and engines. With the success of the new shuttle, America is on track for our next major objective: having the space station Freedom orbiting the Earth in the next decade.

In the meantime, we're looking forward to deploying the planetary probes Magellan, Galileo, and Ulysses, that will visit Venus, Jupiter, and the Sun. The launch of the Humble space telescope—the Hubble, I should say; I put an "m" in there—the launch of the Hubble space telescope will extend our gaze to the far reaches of space. Important national security projects will also be launched, improving our ability to monitor arms control agreements. Our progress on developing the Mach 25 national aerospace plane continues.

And NASA's office of exploration has some very exciting ideas for the future: building a space observatory on the far side of the Moon, or establishing a permanent lunar colony, or sending a manned mission to the planet Mars or to one of its moons. There's so much that lies ahead. You know, I have to wonder how far off is the day when the children of America turn to their parents and say, "Gee, Mom and Dad, can I borrow the spaceship tonight?" [Laughter]

For our young people, in particular, I think Mike Lounge said it best: "Space is a fun place." That's a message that deserves to be posted in every science classroom in America. We can tell each child in every school: There's an exciting future ahead, and it belongs to you. Education will be your passport. Knowledge will be your boarding pass. So, set your sights on the stars. I want to say to our young people that our space program needs you. So you should study and work hard, because when you're old enough to go to space, America will be prepared to take you there.

I'll predict that the crew of the Discovery has launched a whole new generation of young space pioneers. Mission Commander Rick Hauck has said that this will be his last space flight. Well, we'll miss his leadership, but he says "there are a lot of people waiting in the wings." In fact, four of them are right here. As Pinky Nelson, speaking for his colleagues, put it: "We're back at the end of the line, waiting for our next mission." Well, we too are looking forward to seeing you return to space, but for now we just want to say thanks again for this mission and for all that it has meant for our country.

Along with the Discovery's dramatic liftoff, there have been few sights more inspiring than watching the graceful shuttle gliding down to Earth. Because in that moment, as five Americans returned from the heavens to the Earth, we could see our own future—or at least glimpse the shape of its opening moments—because there's so much more to come. What history is recording today is simply the greatest of beginnings, the opening overture of a symphony in space.

Yes, there have been setbacks and tragedy and heroism along the way. And the journey ahead is not for the faint-hearted; it's for the brave. But there are wonders that lie before us, wonders that the human heart has yearned to know since the dawn of time. Ours is the first generation in human history that has had the tools to bring mankind into the heavens, into space; and America intends to stay there as long as the human soul can dream and wonder, as long as our ancient destiny draws us toward the stars.

The poet William Butler Yeats described an Irish airman in World War I, who became a pilot not because of the call of "public men nor cheering crowds" but "a lonely impulse of delight drove him to this tumult in the clouds." I think that's the way it'll always be. The men and women who blaze the trail lead us forward through sense of joy, through "a lonely impulse of delight." They are the pioneers who seek knowledge and adventure, who lead us beyond the frontier, across great oceans, and who lift us to the clouds, to the heavens, and, someday, out beyond the stars.

Today vistas beyond imagination are being opened for humanity in space. A new future of freedom, both peaceful and bountiful, is being created. And America is telling the world: Follow us. We'll lead you there. This is the mission for which our nation itself was created, and we ask for God's guidance. America's as large as the universe, as infinite as space, as limitless as the vision and courage of her people.

So, to the crew of the Discovery and to all of you who help carry us toward our destiny on the wings of a dream, thank you, and God bless you.

Captain Hauck. Mr. President, we would like to thank you very much for the privilege of coming to meet with you and for your coming down to Houston to wish us on our way. This is a great team that we work with, and many of those people are represented in the audience today. And we appreciate that opportunity to thank them again. But a team is only as good as its leader, and as far as we're concerned, you're the captain of the team. And we have a team jacket that we presented to you in Houston. We took the patches off of them so we could fly them into space, and we brought them back to you and would like to present them to you.

The President. They promised they'd bring 'em back to me. [Laughter]

Captain Hauck. Our pleasure, sir.

The President. Thank you all very much. And to some ladies who are just as brave as these gentlemen.

Note: The President spoke at 11:48 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. The President's closing remarks referred to the wives of the crew.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks Congratulating the Crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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