Remarks at a Ceremony Honoring the Pilots of the Second Flight of the Space Shuttle Columbua

December 7, 1981

The President. We're here, ladies and gentlemen, with these two gentlemen and their wives, who, I think, thrilled all of us in flying the Columbia and for a ceremony. And I now turn it over to the Colonel.

Lieutenant Colonel Muratti. Attention to orders.

``The National Aeronautics and Space Administration awards Joe H. Engle the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, for distinguished service as Commander of the Second Orbital Flight Test of the Space Shuttle Columbia, the first demonstration of shuttle reusability. His exceptional skills facilitated the accomplishment of major mission objectives despite an abbreviated mission.

``Signed and sealed at Washington, D.C., this 7th day of December, 1981.''

Signed, James M. Beggs, Administrator, NASA.

The President. Sir, we are glad to do this, and congratulations.

Colonel Engle. Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, it's a tremendous honor. Thank you, sir.

The President. You thrilled all of us.

Lieutenant Colonel Muratti. ``The National Aeronautics and Space Administration awards Richard H. Truly the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, for distinguished service as pilot of the Second Orbital Flight Test of the Space Shuttle Columbia, the first demonstration of shuttle reusability. His exceptional skills facilitated the accomplishment of major mission objectives despite an abbreviated mission.

``Signed and sealed at Washington, D.C., this 7th day of December, 1981.''

Signed, James M. Beggs, Administrator, NASA.

The President. And thank you on behalf of the people, and congratulations.

Captain Truly. Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. I was just sharing with -- oh, we're not through yet.

Colonel Engle. Well, Mr. President, it's our honor on behalf of all the people at NASA to present you with this American flag and crew emblem that was flown aboard the space shuttle Columbia. We want to thank you again for your support of the program and for taking the time to come down and talk with us during the flight. It was an honor and a thrill to us.

The President. Well, it was a thrill to me. I'd never made a long distance call like that. [On November 13 the President spoke to astronauts from the Mission Control area at the space center in Houston, Texas.] [Laughter] Well, thank you very much. I'm very proud to have this, and I accept it on behalf of the people. Thanks very much.

I was just telling them that -- and if it's of interest to any of you -- that I learned while I was there, something that I can't quit talking about, and that is the miracle that takes place. Their approach to Edwards Air Force Base in California begins out over the Hawaiian Islands, and when the plane levels off and starts into the runway, just envision that kind of an approach. It only takes 20 minutes.

Note: The President spoke at 11 a.m. to reporters assembled in the Oval Office at the White House. Lt. Col. Jose A. Muratti is the Army Aide to the President.