Remarks Announcing the Establishment of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident

February 3, 1986

It's been almost a week since our nation and families stood together as we watched Challenger slip beyond our grasp. The memories of that moment will be with us always, as will the memories of those brave Americans who were aboard. The death of the astronauts and the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger will forever be a reminder of the risks involved with space exploration, and we will always remember the Challenger Seven.

As we move away from that terrible day, we must devote our energies to finding out how it happened and how it can be prevented from happening again. It's time now to assemble a group of distinguished Americans to take a hard look at the accident, to make a calm and deliberate assessment of the facts and ways to avoid repetition. So, I am today announcing the formation of a Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident. The Commission will review the circumstances surrounding the accident, determine the probable cause or causes, and develop recommendations for corrective action. And this Commission will report back to me within 120 days.

William P. Rogers, former Secretary of State and former Attorney General, will serve as Chairman of the Commission; and Neil Armstrong, former astronaut, will serve as its Vice Chairman. In addition, today we're announcing 10 of its members drawn from distinguished leaders of the government, scientific, technical, and management communities.

The crew of the Challenger took the risks and paid the ultimate price because they believed in the space program. They were excited by the mystery of what is beyond the Earth and by the limitless possibilities of space exploration. They knew of the dangers they faced. Yet despite those dangers, they chose to go forward, not reluctantly but eagerly and with a thumbs up. And we owe it to them to conduct this investigation so that future space travelers can approach the conquest of space with confidence and America can go forward with enthusiasm and optimism, which has sparked and marked all of our great undertakings.

This is the end of the statement here, but I understand that these gentlemen and Dr. Graham are going over to the press room, where they can field some of your questions on this. Thank you all.

Note: The President spoke at 2:05 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. Dr. William R. Graham was Acting Director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.