Public Papers

Remarks to the Young Astronaut Council and a Teleconference With the Crew of Space Shuttle Discovery


The President. Thank you all very much. Please be seated, and thanks for that warm welcome. The Vice President and I are just delighted to be with you. And of course, I might say I'm so proud of the leadership that the Vice President is giving in this all-out effort to support the space program, strengthen it, build on it. And this is a great day.

Let me say to Wendell Butler, the CEO of Young Astronauts, that we appreciate all your good work. I am also so proud that Dick Truly is here, Admiral Dick Truly, the first astronaut to serve as Administrator of NASA. All told, well, you've seen them, there are 23 veteran astronauts here today. And I'm told this is one of the largest gatherings of space explorers ever at the White House.

Our thoughts also are with seven other astronauts who right now are orbiting the Earth in a space shuttle mission. We're proud of all these men and women. They take risks; they do it with great courage, and they do it with great determination and dedication.

I'm also glad to see so many boys and girls here, from kindergarten through ninth, in this Young Astronauts program. And as President, I've set a goal that involves you young people, and my goal is for young Americans like you who are in grade school right now to travel to Mars someday. New travels in space will give us answers to some of the things that children wonder about. I might add, many adults who contemplate our great universe wonder about these same things, too.

The other day I heard what one 5-year-old wonders about. One of my staff members asked his 5-year-old kid if we should build new spaceships and send people to the Moon again. And the kid said, ``Yes, of course, we should.'' His father said, ``Well, why? Why should we send them to the Moon?'' He said, ``That's easy,'' the kid said. ``It's to see if there's any Martians there.'' [Laughter]

Well, we can chuckle about that, but the kid got it about right. As most of you young astronauts know, we've challenged America to go back to the Moon to stay, and then onward to Mars. And sending people back to the Moon for more experience in an environment different from ours is the first step on the journey to explore the gigantic rift valleys and mountains of Mars.

When we break through barriers of the unknown we not only help ourselves, we learn a lot more about ourselves. And when we reach our goal of sending men and women to Mars, we can find out the answer to that little 5-year-old's wondering about life on other planets. We can learn whether we can extract air and water from materials on Mars to sustain life. We can look for clues on Mars not only to teach us how the Earth developed but also about the wellspring of life itself.

And pushing forward into space already is helping us here and now. More and more, the new jobs for people of your parents' generation are being provided by our space programs. Revenues from American commercial space programs alone grew by 14 percent in 1991, and this year they're projected to grow by 20 percent. The commercial space business has grown so far and so fast that it now takes in about as much money each year as all the receipts at the movie theaters all over the United States. If this trend continues, the celestial stars will be getting more attention than the Hollywood stars, and that might be all right. [Laughter]

America now exports billion a year in commercial space goods and services. Those exports alone translate into jobs for 20,000 Americans. Real progress is happening almost faster than we can imagine. Navigation satellites that helped guide our troops in Desert Storm just a year ago now help hikers and fishermen and surveyors and motorists find their way. Personal navigation receivers now help us manage our forests and wetlands, speed the shipment of goods on our own highways.

Ten years from now the older kids here will be finished with college, some of you maybe even finished with graduate school. And when that day comes, when you're ready to start careers and families, I hope many of you will be prepared to become the movers and shakers in our space program. It's up to your parents and grandparents and the Congressmen they elect to keep us on track for this promising future of space exploration and commercial space enterprises.

To stress how important this is, a few weeks from now I will formally direct the establishment of a new national space exploration office led by NASA and including scientific talent from our Defense and Energy Departments and other agencies as well. Space exploration should be and will be a national effort. And I should again state that Dan Quayle's leadership as Chairman of the National Space Council has been absolutely vital to the renewed focus and momentum of our space programs.

When I send my annual budget up to Congress next week, it is going to mark the third straight year that I've called for a real increase in spending on our civil space program. And this includes full funding for Space Station Freedom, .25 billion, an increase of 11 percent. Space Station is back on track and on schedule. Last year we had an honest debate with those in the Congress who wanted to kill Space Station. We won because the American people agree that Space Station Freedom is not only a very valuable scientific program but it is essential to our destiny as a pioneering Nation, a pioneering Nation in space.

And I know many are concerned about the balance between science and exploration in our space program, and the budget that I will propose next week will not short-change science. Space science will remain more than 23 percent of NASA's program, will increase by 10 percent over the current year. But America's destiny must include manned exploration. So my budget increases funding for technologies we need to send man beyond Earth's orbit. And that includes propulsion technologies, life support technologies, two new missions to complete the mapping of the Moon. And finally the budget will include a dramatic expansion of two exciting new programs: 0 million to triple funding for our new launch system, to develop a new family of rockets for the 21st century, and 80 million for the National Aerospace Plane which may one day enable direct flights from Earth to orbit.

For you to fulfill your dreams of space exploration when you become adults, we must make a new public investment in our space program now. And I'm asking Americans to make a farsighted commitment, one that looks dozens of years and millions of miles beyond the recession and the other things that tend to preoccupy us today.

And I'm challenging you young people, too: Start your preparations for tomorrow's new age of space exploration right now. Keep that pledge you've made in joining the Young Astronauts Council. Make yourselves better and better students of math and science. Make the U.S.A. the leading country in the world in early education for math and science. Make your families proud. Make your teachers proud. Give your very best, and America will be better for it.

In doing this, you not only help our space program, you'll also help us meet one of the most demanding goals that I've set for our schools. It aims to involve parents more with our schools, to revolutionize our schools with higher standards and better performance by the start of the new century.

Among the goals of America 2000 is to make America the world leader in math and science education. If we want to reach the Moon and Mars, we've got to aim high. And if you share my aim of making America's students and teachers the best in the world and if you share my goal of sending American men and women to explore Mars and if you share my dream of discovering the unknown to make our lives better, you'll see it will require time and effort and study and money.

And it's going to take teamwork across the years. That includes parents, your parents and then my generation's. Most of all, for a long time to come, it will call for your own best efforts. And I applaud this Council for making a positive difference with America's children. The Council is committed to our America 2000 education goals and is playing a true leadership role in our observance of 1992 to celebrate exploration, not only as the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' voyage but also as International Space Year.

Barbara and I are very proud to serve as honorary cochairmen of the Young Astronauts Council. And it's a pleasure to recognize three dedicated Americans who have been honored as 1992 Young Astronaut Teachers of the Year: Glenda Parker of Denver, North Carolina, right here; Arthur Perschino, Arthur, from Norwalk, Connecticut; and Karyn Sotero from right here in Washington, DC.

And now I understand that three young astronauts, Russell Frisby, Rachel Heckmann, and Conner Sabatino, have something they're going to give to me. See, this is a very nice ending to this thing. So, you guys come on up here.

[At this point, the young people presented a gift to the President. Following the presentation and announcement of the NASA/Young Astronauts Council poster contest to commemorate International Space Year, the President began a teleconference with the ``Discovery'' crew.]

The President. Are we on the air, I mean, way out there on the air? Colonel Grabe, can you hear me?

Commander Grabe. Yes, sir, Mr. President, we hear you loud and clear.

The President. What happened? Can you guys hear me up there all right?

Commander Grabe. We hear you loud and clear, Mr. President.

The President. Loud and clear. Well, let me just say to Commander Grabe and all the rest of you all, I'm here with a lot of the young astronauts and some of the older astronauts, as a matter of fact -- [laughter] -- four of the crews, here in the White House complex. And we just called up to wish you well. The Vice President is with me. Admiral Truly is with me. And we just want to get from you all how it's doing down there.

A lot of these kids want to get going and get out to Mars. Have you got any advice, first of all, for these young guys here, young kids, boys and girls?

Commander Grabe. Well, certainly, Mr. President. For any Young Astronauts that want to pursue a career as an astronaut, they ought to be emphasizing math and science in their studies and just doing as well as they can. It's a long, hard road to get there, and it takes a little luck along the way as well. But it's certainly worth the effort.

The President. We've been talking a little bit about the contribution that these journeys make to science. Can you tell us a little bit, in layman's terms, please, about the experiments that you all are conducting?

Commander Grabe. Let me turn that over to Bob Thagard. He's our payload commander here on my right.

Commander Thagard. Well, Mr. President, taking the experiments to orbit is an excellent way to do experiments in some areas of science, and it makes this whole journey well worthwhile. The two principal things or areas that come to mind are physiology, both plant and animal, and crystal growing and other material science experiments. And we have some 55 experiments, I think, in the IML complement. Most of those are working even as we speak. And it is our plan to do some more TV, some more explanation later on about some more details of that science.

The President. Well, that is very interesting. Now, if you guys have a couple more minutes, we don't want to detract you from all this experimentation, but it might be fun if one of these young astronauts, or maybe a couple, would like to -- here comes my man. [Laughter] He's back. This guy just gave a great speech here. Tell them your name, and see if you've got a question for them.

Q. My name is Russell Frisby, and here's my question: What's it like in zero gravity?

The President. Did you get that? He wanted to know what it's like in zero gravity.

Commander Grabe. Yes, sir, we understood the question, what's it like in zero gravity. And I'll turn that over to Bill Readdy, who's on Bob's left.

Astronaut Readdy. It's great, just floating around and everything. And a lot of things it just makes a whole lot easier, besides from putting your pants on both legs at the same time. [Laughter] It's easy to translate back and forth. It makes it a whole lot easier to do a lot of the science because any particular orientation you choose works the same as any other.

The President. That makes it all very clear. [Laughter] Thank you.

Any other? Come on, you come up and ask one. This is a rare opportunity. Fire away.

Q. I wanted to know what was your favorite experiment you've taken up so far?

Commander Grabe. That sounds like a good question for Steve Oswald, our pilot, to answer. Steve's over here on Bill's left.

Astronaut Oswald. Actually, I guess I'm not sure that, being in the front of the bus, we're working the experiments all that hard. But we've got the I - 90 camera aboard. And Bill and Ron and I have been having a great time taking those movies that you see on the big screen. And we're taking pictures right now for a movie that will be coming out here within a year or two.

Q. I would like to know, which one do you like better -- --

Astronaut Oswald. -- -- the camera up -- [inaudible] -- I can just show that to you, how big it is.

Astronaut Readdy. You're asking about what's great about zero G. Well, this camera on Earth probably weighs about, oh, 110, 120 pounds. Even a big moose like Os has trouble hefting it. But you can see you can quite easily do it with just fingers.

Astronaut Oswald. The camera probably weighs as much as Roberta, who's manipulating it right now, and you can see she has no trouble at all with it.

The President. That's great. Do you have one?

Commander Grabe. Mr. President, the one crew member -- --

Q. Which one do you like better, being in space or being on Earth?

Commander Grabe. I'd like to introduce our Canadian payload specialist, Roberta Bondar, who will be glad to answer that one.

Dr. Bondar. Actually, living both in space and on the Earth really makes you appreciate the good and the bad of both. I think right now we're enjoying very much the limited opportunity we've had so far with being up here. We've certainly enjoyed looking back at the Earth during our brief moments when we're not in the lab working the sciences. And we're really looking forward to our return to Earth to bring back all the scientific information and all the enthusiasm and experience that we've gained in this flight.

So, for all of us, I think right now we're just enjoying where we are, and we're going to be enjoying where we're going to be when we come back. And I think it's just great to have had this opportunity to be assigned with this great crew.

The President. Dr. Bondar, this is not a young astronaut, this is the President speaking now. But I just want to say how pleased we are that you, representing Canada, are a part, a fundamental part of this. I think it's a wonderful thing, and I think in a wonderful way it shows the strength of ties between our two great countries.

So, I understand the Prime Minister, my friend Brian Mulroney, called. Did he actually get through the other day?

Dr. Bondar. That was right about the time we were having our briefing just near launch time. And instead, I had a lovely telegram from him, and he wished us all well and Godspeed.

The President. Well, keep up the good work. Now, have you got time for one more question? We've got a real eager one right here. Front of the line. Here we go.

Q. I wonder how you feel in space.

The President. They're trying to decide here.

Commander Grabe. The question was, how do we feel in space?

The President. Yes.

Commander Grabe. Well, in space, it takes a little bit of time to get used to it. When you first get up, you might feel just the slightest bit queasy or so. But by about today -- this is our third day in space -- we're beginning to adapt pretty well. I think you can see we all feel pretty comfortable up here. So after you get over the initial adjustment, you can live in space quite well and do things that you do on Earth.

The President. I have a rather technical question. What happens if you get the flu in space? [Laughter]

Commander Grabe. Some of the older astronauts -- [inaudible] -- anything that can give you the enthusiasm a kid has, has got to be a great experience. And I feel like I'm about 12.

Q. What planets have you seen?

The President. What planets have you seen?

Commander Grabe. Well, of course, we've got the world's greatest view of our world. But on some of our night passes we can see Saturn and Jupiter and Mars and Venus. It's really spectacular up here. Hope we can go to Mars here one of these days.

The President. Well, we're going to keep trying to get this program geared up to do just that. And maybe, just maybe, Colonel, one of these kids here today will be a part of that. Maybe sooner, maybe later. But I'll bet one of them will be a part of that mission.

But listen, I'm told we've got to run on. I've got a lot of eager questioners, but unfortunately, I guess we don't have the time. But we certainly want to wish you well. Your fellow astronauts are standing here quietly in the shadows, and I know that they are wishing you well for a successful conclusion of this productive journey.

You have our blessings and our support, and keep up the fine work. You're on the cutting edge, and you're setting a great example for the rest of our country, the rest of the world. Congratulations, and thanks for taking the time out.

Note: The President spoke at 3 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building.