Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks on Receiving the Final Report of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident

June 09, 1986

The President. Good afternoon, and welcome to the Rose Garden. The members of the Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident have just briefed me on their report. It examines the reasons for the accident. It presents recommendations on what we must do to help prevent such a tragedy from occurring again. And I look forward to reading and reviewing it in thorough detail.

And let me give my heartfelt thanks to the members and staff of the Rogers commission. They've performed their task with distinction, and it was an arduous one. To a nation still suffering from the trauma of the loss of the Challenger and her brave crew, it was often a painful duty. Yet the Commission members were resolute. Their investigation was thorough and comprehensive and completed within the mandated time. They went in with their eyes wide open and were unflinching in pursuit of the facts. Though saddened and chastened, our nation will be stronger because of their courage and dedication. And as we push forward in our conquest of space—and push forward we will—our shuttle program will be safer and better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. I want to thank the Congress for letting the Commission proceed unfettered with its investigation, and also the staff of NASA, the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, and others, whose cooperation made the Commission's report possible.

And today we see once again that our true faith as a nation lies in our free and open society. In America we learn from our setbacks as well as our successes. And although the lessons of failure are hard, they are often the most important on the road to progress. We've learned in these past few months that we're frail and fallible, but we have also learned that we have the courage to face our faults and the strength to correct our errors. Because we don't hide our mistakes, we're not condemned to repeat them. Because we're an open society, we have room to grow. We can count on their courage to pull us through the hard places—I'm speaking now of the American people, because we base our trust on the American people. And that's why we can look to their wisdom, creativity, to show us the way to the future.

This has been a difficult passage for America, but we will go on just as the crew of the space shuttle Challenger would have wanted us to. We'll use every ounce of American skill, ingenuity, and gumption; and we'll work twice as hard and be twice as vigilant. We'll simply do what has to be done to make our space program safe and reliable and a renewed source of pride to our nation.

America has a claim to stake on the future. We've suffered a tragedy and a setback, but we'll forge ahead, wiser this time, and undaunted—as undaunted as the spirit of the Challenger and her seven heroes.

I thank all of you for being here, and all of you who have given so much. God bless you all. And, now, Bill Rogers.

Mr. Rogers. Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, Members of the Congress, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, Mr. President, for your generous remarks about the work of the Commission. On behalf of the Commission, I want to say that it has been an honor and a privilege to have served you and, in so doing, served the Nation. When we accepted this responsibility, we knew the importance of the task. However, we did not anticipate the difficulty of certain aspects of the investigation. The Commission believes that its investigation and report, which has been agreed to by all of us, has been responsive to your request. We hope, Mr. President, that our work will serve the best interests of the Nation in restoring the space program of the United States to its preeminent position. in the world.

Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. Thank you.

Our Commission is intact here except for one—General Chuck Yeager, who couldn't be with us here today. But we thank him as well as all of these wonderful people, who have done so much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:33 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. Prior to his remarks, the President met with the members of the Commission in the Cabinet Room to receive the report. Former Secretary of State and Attorney General William P. Rogers was Chairman of the Commission.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks on Receiving the Final Report of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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