Message to the Congress Transmitting the Annual Report on Aeronautics and Space Activities


April 22, 1988


To the Congress of the United States:


I am pleased to transmit this report on the Nation's progress in aeronautics and space during calendar year 1986. The report is provided in accordance with Section 206 of the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, as amended (42 U.S.C. 2476).


It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of the brave men and women aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger, but it is more important to remember them for their bravery and pursuit of challenge. I believe they would be proud of the challenge we have undertaken to move the Nation forward into a new era of space flight, one more stable, more reliable, and safer than before.


Space activities continue to provide vital support to U.S. national security interests. In response to expendable launch vehicle failures as well as the Challenger tragedy, the Department of Defense has embarked on a space launch recovery program that will provide for more assured access to space and reduce the backlog of critical national security payloads that were scheduled for launch on the Space Shuttle. In addition, critical space communications, navigation, meteorology, and surveillance programs continue to make vital contributions that enhance the effectiveness of our military forces and strengthen the overall deterrent posture of the United States. Also, space-related research conducted in support of the Strategic Defense Initiative continues to make impressive progress toward a more safe and secure future.


In 1986, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of Defense initiated the joint National Aero-Space Plane research program that could result in an entirely new family of aerospace vehicles. Also, NASA and the Department of Defense examined and continue to study space transportation requirements for the late 1990's and early years of the 21st century. This study could lead to future development and technology efforts associated with advanced manned and unmanned space transportation systems aimed at providing increased responsiveness, flexibility, and reliability, as well as learning the costs of assured access to space while meeting evolving payload requirements.


Advanced planning continued for a permanently manned Space Station. At my request, our friends and allies cooperated with us in the initial planning and design phases of the Space Station. In addition to helping us build an enhanced facility, their investments will help to strengthen free world ties in space science and exploration.


During the year, we continued to unlock the mysteries of the universe. In January 1986, Voyager 2 become the first spacecraft to fly past Uranus, transmitting over 7,000 images of that planet and its rings and moons. The fastest known spinning binary pulsar was discovered.


In studies of the Earth and its environment, scientists continued to observe conditions from Earthbound and spaceborne platforms and to participate in interdisciplinary research activities that will allow better understanding and prediction of environmental problems throughout the world.


As most of you are aware, space is no longer just the domain of the United States and the Soviet Union. It has become a highly competitive international arena where more and more nations are vying for economic, scientific, and military advantages. Continued advances in aeronautics and space technology will strengthen the Nation's scientific capabilities and develop the technological infrastructure needed to maintain U.S. national security interests as well as economic competitiveness.


Because of the Challenger tragedy, the year 1986 was a difficult one for all of us who support U.S. space activities. In the aftermath of Challenger, we established goals to restructure and strengthen our space planning and organizations. I believe we have made considerable progress toward realizing these goals, which will allow the United States to return space transportation capabilities to safe and reliable operation.


Ronald Reagan


The White House,


April 22, 1988.