Remarks to Reporters Following Lunch With the Space Shuttle Challenger Astronauts

June 1, 1983

The President. I have just had lunch with the crew of the space shuttle. And it was quite a lunch -- squeezed it from a plastic bag. [Laughter] No, we really didn't, but I wanted to meet with Captain Crippen, Captain Hauck, Colonel Fabian, Dr. Ride, and Dr. Thagard to let them know how much we look forward to the flight of the seventh space shuttle.

This mission is a mission of firsts. It is the first space flight of an American woman, Dr. Sally Ride; the first shuttle landing at Kennedy Space Center; the first launch of a five-member crew. And I know, come June 18th about 7:32 a.m., you're also going to be first in the hearts of your countrymen. A little bit of every American will be up there with you, and needless to say, you'll carry our pride and our prayers as you head into space.

This will be the second flight of the Challenger. And, as I said to the crew of the first flight, ``You genuinely are challengers.'' You're daring the future and the old ways of thinking that kept us from -- or kept us looking at the heavens, instead of traveling to them. And you and that white spacecraft you fly represent the hope of the future.

Now, I don't want to delay the flight, so I won't give a full-fledged speech. But, I did want to say publicly and personally how very honored America is to have public servants of your dedication, your courage and intelligence; and, on behalf of all your fellow citizens, to wish you a very successful flight and to say Godspeed and God bless you for all that you're doing.

Crew members. Thank you, Mr. President.

Q. Mr. President, why don't you go along with them -- become the first President to go into space? [Laughter]

The President. Well, I'm a little hurt, because several flights ago I asked them if they would stop and pick me up on the way to Edwards Air Force Base, and they haven't done it. [Laughter]

Q. [Inaudible] -- see the launch? [Inaudible] -- going to see the launch?

The President. What?

Q. Would you like to see the launch?

The President. I'd like to see it, but I don't think there's going to be an opportunity to do that.

Q. Mr. President, are you giving up on builddown?

The President. What?

Q. Are you backing away from the build-down idea?

Q. Does Chancellor Kohl have a role to play in setting up a summit, sir?

Deputy Press Secretary Speakes. That's about enough.

Q. Wait, let the man speak for himself.

Q. Let him talk, Larry.

Mr. Speakes. He doesn't want to speak to you.

Q. You're not the President. Who elected you? [Laughter] That's what they always tell me.

Mr. Speakes. I may be running.

Q. Does Chancellor Kohl have a role to play in setting up a summit?

The President. Please, you're all just welcome here. I hope it doesn't rain on you.

Q. If you go along, you can become the first spacey President. [Laughter]

The President. [Inaudible]

Q. What?

The President. Sam [Sam Donaldson, ABC News] has spoken for all who are way out. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 1:05 p.m. on the South Grounds of the White House.