Press Release

NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe: Remembering the Legacy of President Ronald Reagan

By SpaceRef Editor
June 10, 2004
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In the coming days our nation will pause to mourn the loss and honor the tremendous legacy of our 40th President, Ronald Wilson Reagan.

President Reagan’s boundless optimism about America manifested itself in many ways. Among them was his energetic and unbridled support for NASA’s space exploration program. Less than three months after he took the oath of office, on April 12, 1981, the Space Shuttle Columbia launched on its first mission, and after a six-year hiatus, Americans were back in space to stay.

A year later, in one of our country’s most memorable Fourth of July celebrations, President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan greeted the Columbia STS-4 crew of Thomas Mattingly and Henry Hartsfield upon the conclusion of their successful mission at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

They also watched with thousands of other spectators as the newly completed Shuttle Orbiter Challenger took off on top of a specially modified 747 for the Kennedy Space Center. President Reagan spoke that morning about how the Shuttles were the modern day equivalent of the Yankee Clipper ships that opened new horizons for our young nation.

Following the initial successes of the Space Shuttle program, space policy took on a new level of national importance in the Reagan Administration. In his 1984 State of the Union Address, President Reagan announced plans for a permanent human presence in space with the construction of a space station, and he tasked NASA to include the international community to be a part of a project designed for the benefit of everyone on Earth.

Today, the International Space Station orbits overhead as a living testament to the optimism and visionary leadership of this great man.

Of course, we all remember President Reagan for his eloquent speech when we lost the Challenger and its gallant crew. His heartfelt words did much to lessen the burden of the sorrow we all felt, and bolstered the American public’s resolve to continue our journeys into space.

During his remarks, the President reminded all of us, “Sometimes when we reach for the stars, we fall short, but we must pick ourselves up again and press on despite the pain.”

In his emotional speech he reminded all of us that, “The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.”

Those words, written nearly two decades ago, still hold true today and they serve as a foundation on which we’re now working to build a prosperous and successful future.

As President Reagan said, “Our progress in space, taking giant steps for all mankind, is a tribute to American teamwork and excellence. Our finest minds in government, industry and academia have all pulled together. And we can be proud to say: We are first; we are the best; and we are so because we’re free.”

May God bless President Ronald Reagan. We are indebted to him for his visionary and persistent leadership. On behalf of all members of the NASA family, we offer our condolences to the Reagan family in their time of reflection on his contributions to them and, indeed, all Americans.

Sean O’Keefe

NASA Administrator

SpaceRef staff editor.