Remarks at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on Completion of the Fourth Mission of the Space Shuttle Columbia

July 4, 1982

The President. T.K. and Hank -- as you can see, we've gotten well acquainted already -- you've just given the American people a Fourth of July present to remember. I think all of us, all of us who've just witnessed the magnificent sight of the Columbia touching down in the California desert, feel a real swelling of pride in our chests.

In the early days of our Republic, Americans watched Yankee Clippers glide across the many oceans of the world, manned by proud and energetic individuals breaking records for time and distance, showing our flag, and opening up new vistas of commerce and communications. Well, today, I think you have helped recreate the anticipation and excitement felt in those homeports as those gallant ships were spotted on the horizon heading in after a long voyage.

Today we celebrate the 206th anniversary of our independence. Through our history, we've never shrunk before a challenge. The conquest of new frontiers for the betterment of our homes and families is a crucial part of our national character, something which you so ably represent today. The space program in general and the shuttle program in particular have gone a long way to help our country recapture its spirit of vitality and confidence. The pioneer spirit still flourishes in America. In the future, as in the past, our freedom, independence, and national well-being will be tied to new achievements, new discoveries, and pushing back new frontiers.

The fourth landing of the Columbia is the historical equivalent to the driving of the golden spike which completed the first transcontinental railroad. It marks our entrance into a new era. The test flights are over. The groundwork has been laid. And now we will move forward to capitalize on the tremendous potential offered by the ultimate frontier of space. Beginning with the next flight, the Columbia and her sister ships will be fully operational, ready to provide economical and routine access to space for scientific exploration, commercial ventures, and for tasks related to the national security.

Simultaneously, we must look aggressively to the future by demonstrating the potential of the shuttle and establishing a more permanent presence in space.

We've only peered over the edge of our accomplishment, yet already the space program has improved the lives of every American. The aerospace industry provides meaningful employment to over a million of our citizens, many working directly on the space program, others using the knowledge developed in space programs to keep us the world leader in aviation. In fact, technological innovations traced directly to the space program boost our standard of living and provide employment for our people in such diverse fields as communications, computers, health care, energy efficiency, consumer products, and environmental protection. It's been estimated, for example, that information from satellites has saved hundreds of millions of dollars per year in agriculture, shipping, and fishing.

The space shuttle will open up even more impressive possibilities, permitting us to use the near weightlessness and near-perfect vacuum of space to produce special alloys, metals, glasses, crystals, and biological materials impossible to manufacture on Earth. Similarly, in the area of national security, our space systems have opened unique opportunities for peace by providing advanced methods of verifying strategic arms control agreements. The shuttle we just saw land carried two kinds of payloads, one funded entirely by private industry, and the other, related to our national security, sponsored by the Air Force.

This versatility of the Columbia and her sister ships will serve the American people well, yet we must never forget that the benefits we receive are due to our country's commitment made a decade ago to remain the world leader in space technology.

To ensure that the American people keep reaping the benefits of space and to provide a general direction for our future efforts, I recently approved a national space policy statement which is being released today. Our goals for space are ambitious, yet achievable. They include continued space activity for economic and scientific benefits, expanding private investment and involvement in space-related activities, promoting international uses of space, cooperating with other nations to maintain the freedom of space for all activities that enhance the security and welfare of mankind, strengthening our own security by exploring new methods of using space as a means of maintaining the peace.

There are those who thought the closing of the western frontier marked an end to America's greatest period of vitality. Yet we're crossing new frontiers every day. The high technology now being developed, much of it by byproduct of the space effort, offers us and future generations of Americans opportunities never dreamed of a few years ago. Today we celebrate American independence confident that the limits of our freedom and prosperity have again been expanded by meeting the challenge of the frontier.

We also honor two pathfinders. They reaffirm to all of us that as long as there are frontiers to be explored and conquered, Americans will lead the way. They and the other astronauts have shown the world that Americans still have the know-how and Americans still have the true grit that tackled a savage wilderness.

Charles Lindbergh once said that ``Short-term survival may depend on the knowledge of nuclear physicists and the performance of supersonic aircraft, but long-term survival depends alone on the character of man.'' That, too, is our challenge.

Hank and T.K., we're proud of you. We need not fear for the future of our nation as long as we've got men like you to serve as our inspiration. Thank you both, and God bless you for what you're doing.

Before I introduce you, if you'll all just look -- well, I'm sure down in front maybe you can't see -- but way out there on the end of the runway, the space shuttle Challenger, affixed atop a 747, is about to start on the first leg of a journey that will eventually put it into space in November. It's headed for Florida now, and I believe they're ready to take off.

Challenger, you are free to take off now.

And now it's my pleasure to introduce to you two sons of Auburn, Captain T. K. Mattingly and Colonel Hank Hartsfield.

Captain Mattingly. Thank you.

Mr. President, you mentioned something about people having a desire to maintain a presence in space. Not very many hours ago I know two guys who really wanted to maintain that presence in space a while longer. That is, you never get tired of it. The most remarkable thing, besides the machine and the team that put it together, is that it's a new discovery every minute and every day.

The machine we built is a first stepping stone. Here comes the second one. We're standing in front of its pathfinder, and there's more to come. Where we're going to go in the future is something that depends on you. [The space shuttle Challenger and its transporting aircraft passed overhead, enroute to the John F. Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla.] And maybe that's our second stage.

I'd like to thank you for being here today. It's really a privilege for us to be part of this celebration. I don't feel like -- it isn't our celebration at all. We were just lucky enough to be here.

The people that make all this work are the thousands of designers and engineers that made it work. And as the President pointed out, all the technology in the world is just a tool. And the only thing that makes the difference between our technology and the trip that we've just had and the sights that we've seen and the things that we've thought and the ideas that that's spurred -- all the difference between that and just plain old technology is the people that made it happen. And the country is blessed with having a team that's dedicated to the United States and to the exploration and exploitation of space. And I am just as proud as I can be to be a part of that NASA team.

There's one other thing that I'd like to say, and I'll let Hank talk to you. Hank's had to endure me for a long time now, and he probably thinks that this last year has been the longest year of his life. And it's certainly had more hours packed into it than most. But throughout it all, this guy has maintained a sense of humor and an industry that's second to none. And this is the finest pilot that ever flew in a spacecraft.

Hank.

Colonel Hartsfield. It's kind of tough to follow that. I can only echo the words of the President and T.K. I am very proud to be here and be a part of the shuttle program.

I think back to 206 years ago when our forefathers ushered in a new era of true democracy for the world. And here today I think we have ushered in a new era also -- a fully operational space transportation system. We've got a real fine vehicle there. That vehicle performed far beyond my expectations, and I think T.K. and I brought all you folks about the best spacecraft that's ever been built. It will be tough for Challenger and the ones coming down the line to top it.

But as Ken said, the people that put all this together are the important part. T.K. and I are only just a little tip of the pyramid, and we're standing on the top of a huge number of people who have dedicated their lives and their efforts to making it all work. It can't be done without you folks. And I'm convinced, as T.K. is, that American technology is the greatest in the world, because we have the best people in the world, people who are willing to work.

I think that the future is going to hold something for us that at this point we cannot even imagine. In the short time that I was there in space, I thought of some things that could only be done there. And when we start sending people up routinely, as the President pointed out, we just opened a railroad. T.K. referred to it once as ``opening up the freeway.'' Once they're built, we know no bounds to what we can do. And I am very, very proud to be a part of this initial effort.

Thank you.

The President. Come on up, both of you. I just want to, again, tell you how proud we are of you. And today, as we celebrate our 206th anniversary of our independence, let us remember we're a prosperous people and a strong people because we're a free people.

Well, God bless you all and a happy Fourth of July.

Now, here they come.

[At this point, a band played ``God Bless America.'']

Happy Fourth of July. And, you know, this has got to beat firecrackers.

Note: The President spoke at 11:07 a.m. at a site adjacent to the Hugh L. Dryden Flight Research Facility on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

Earlier in the day, after greeting Capt. Thomas K. Mattingly and Col. Henry W. Hartsfield as they disembarked from the Columbia, the President presented the NASA Distinguished Service Medal to Col. Jack R. Lousma and Col. C. Gordon Fullerton, pilots of the Columbia's third mission, and James Beggs, Administrator, Lt. Gen. J. A. Abrahamson, Associate Administrator, Office of Space Flight, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in a private ceremony at the flight research facility.

Robert Crippen and Joe Engle, pilots of the Columbia's first and second missions, were also present during the landing of the fourth mission.

Following his appearance at Edwards Air Force Base, the President returned to Rancho del Cielo, his ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif.