Remarks to Space Shuttle Challenger Astronauts Following Their Landing

June 24, 1983

The President. Commander Crippin.

Commander Crippin. Good afternoon, Mr. President.

The President. Well, welcome home.

Commander Crippin. Thank you very much, sir.

The President. And now this is the second time -- you know, I was going to meet you in Florida, but then you decided to land in California -- but again, you didn't stop and pick me up off the South Lawn, like I ask you to.

Commander Crippin. I'm guilty, sir. [Laughter]

The President. Listen, I just want to congratulate you all. This has been a wonderful mission, and I'm sure, as you know already, all of America was watching you and what you were accomplishing up there. And it was a first in many ways, one of which is the largest crew to ever go up. And I guess the first retrieval of a satellite is another first that has been talked about incessantly. And I understand that Dr. Ride wishes there wasn't so much talk about that.

Well, Dr. Ride, let me just remind you that when we had lunch here at the White House before your flight, that somebody said that ``sometimes the best man for a job was a woman.'' And, in this particular instance, your handling of that long arm and that retrieval and all did indicate you were there for one reason: You were there because you were the best person for the job.

And I think that sets a standard that's going to be followed by men and women in the force from now on with these experiments. People are picked neither because of, nor in spite of, but simply because, like all five of you, you were the best for this assignment. And you've done so much. And to think that people as far away as Indonesia -- which didn't look far away to you when you were going over -- but people that far away will have better telephone service because of what you've accomplished and what you did up there.

It's just a most thrilling thing, and I can't tell you how much all of us appreciate it but also how proud you've made everyone in America.

Dr. Ride. Well, thank you. I appreciate that very much.

Commander Crippin. Yes, we all do, Mr. President. And I think maybe you indicated to us the other day when we were having lunch that seven was a particularly valuable number in your life. I think you bestowed upon us some of the luck that is associated with it. And as John Fabian indicated to you, it was a truly international mission, and it came off, from our standpoint, as well as we could have asked.

We would have liked to have landed at Kennedy. We have lots of friends here at Edwards, and we're always proud to come back. We were all honored to fly. I've got a fantastic crew. And, hopefully, we'll all get a chance to do it again sometime.

I think we proved that the Challenger, and the Columbia before it, is a super machine that can do many, many things, for not only the United States but for the people of the world.

The President. Well, there's no question about that. And, all five of you here and -- very frankly and seriously, I am sorry that the people who were all waiting down in Florida were disappointed at the fact that the landing had to be changed because of the weather. I guess still, with all of our miracles, that's the one thing we haven't been able to overcome yet. No one could do anything about the weather. But, it didn't detract at all from your accomplishment. And we know that you'll be flying again in future Columbias and Challengers, and you'll have the full cooperation that we can give to keep on with this magnificent work.

God bless all five of you. Thank you for what you've done for the world.

Crew members. Thank you very much, Mr. President. Thank you. Appreciate it. Thank you, sir.

The President. Well, back to your briefing -- debriefing.

Crew members. Thank you, sir.

Note: The President spoke by telephone at 12:49 p.m. from the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House. The astronauts were conducting a news conference at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., where they had landed earlier in the day.