Bill Clinton photo

Remarks Welcoming Returning Astronaut Shannon Lucid in Houston, Texas

September 27, 1996

Thank you very much. Thank you. I want to say first how very much I appreciate the work that is done here by all of you at NASA. Thank you, George Abbey. Thank you, Dan Goldin. Thank you, every one of you who worked for America's space program, for a job well done. This is all of your triumph here today, and America is very proud of you. Thank you very much.

Of course, like all of you, I'm here to say welcome home to Shannon Lucid. There's so many things to say about the incredible skill and stamina and dedication it takes to be in space for 6 months. Her achievements: the longest single flight by an American in space; the longest duration for any woman in space; five shuttle missions now for her. It's a monument to the human spirit. One of the wits on my airplane remarked as we were coming down, he said, "You know, Mr. President, you're always talking about bringing the deficit down for 4 years in a row; it's a good thing you haven't been giving her frequent-flier miles or we'd be in debt again." [Laughter] It's an amazing, amazing achievement.

And I know I speak for all Americans when I say I think we all feel at least that we've gotten to know Dr. Lucid, watching her grin and bear it as the mission was extended, hearing her eagerness to see her family, her yearning for what she called the wind and the sun. Perhaps more than she knows, she has also set a remarkable example for a new generation of young Americans and especially young girls all across this country who look up to her and now see new possibilities for themselves. And we thank her for that as well.

Let me also salute Bill Readdy and the crew of the Atlantis. What seems to me remarkable about their launch and return is that they make it now seem easy, and we know it's not. But we know that their bravery and their professionalism make possible for all of us regular space travel with all of the scientific, military, and commercial benefits it brings. Now it's a part of our lives thanks to this crew and others like them.

The mission from which Dr. Lucid returns continues to cement the close and growing bonds of cooperation between the United States and the Russian space programs, something that we have worked very hard for, not only the cooperation between our Nation and Russia but between our Nation and other nations as well in the space station project.

We are committed to continuing the strong United States space program. We have to keep the space shuttle flying; work toward the international space station with all of its promise and challenges; develop the X-33, which will replace the shuttle and help to create a revolution in global communications; and continue robotic exploration of Mars and the solar system.

I was told, in preparing these remarks, that when Dr. Lucid was in the eighth grade, she wrote an essay saying she wanted to be a rocket scientist. She was told by her teacher there is no such thing as a rocket scientist and if there were, it wouldn't be a woman. Well, how lucky we are that not everyone can foresee the future.

I say that today to make this point: The children here, whether when they grow up they have anything to do with the space program or not, many of these children will be doing work that has not been invented yet. Many of these children will be doing work that has not been imagined yet. And we owe it to them, their future, and their children's future to continue in the American tradition of pushing back the frontiers of knowledge, exploring the frontiers that we don't yet understand.

Our space pioneers reflect the very best of America's spirit of exploration, our never-ending search for new horizons. And Dr. Shannon Lucid today stands tall among them all. We are grateful for her. We welcome her home.

Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 4:30 p.m. at Ellington Field. In his remarks, he referred to space shuttle Atlantis commander William Readdy.

William J. Clinton, Remarks Welcoming Returning Astronaut Shannon Lucid in Houston, Texas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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