More Space Flight for Teachers, President Says in Brief Address
Only hours after last week’s shuttle explosion, President Reagan said in a nationally televised address that the country would continue to send civilians—including teachers—into space.
His expression of support for the program, coming amid the outpouring of shock and grief over the disaster, was applauded by some, but not all, who were listening.
“There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here. Our hopes and our journeys continue,” said Mr. Reagan.
“The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we will continue to follow them,” said the President, who was to attend a national memorial service in Houston last Friday.
“In memory of the crew and in memory of Christa, I would hope they’d keep the program and send a teacher up,” commented Mary Hatwood Futrell, president of the National Education Association, of which Ms. McAuliffe was an active member.
Several lawmakers, however, questioned whether civilians should fly in space.
“I do believe personally that only astronauts trained in this program should be the ones to go up in the shuttle,” said Representative Harold L. Volkmer, Democrat of Missouri and chairman of the House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations.
Similarly, Senator John Glenn, Democrat of Ohio and the first American to orbit the earth, told reporters that the purpose of the shuttle program was scientific research and not “to put the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker on those rides.”
The House Science and Technology Committee will hold hearings on last week’s explosion after NASA completes its inquiry, said the panel chairman, Representative Don Fuqua, Democrat of Pennsylvania.
Although no cause has been identified, some lawmakers suggested that because of the space agency’s ambitious shuttle plans this year, NASA was under pressure—particularly from commercial customers whose satellites would be launched from the shuttle—to press ahead with this mission.
But Jesse W. Moore, director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston and the official who gave the final order to launch last Tuesday morning, said at a press conference that “there was absolutely no pressure to get this launch up” and emphasized that “flight safety is our top priority in the program.”
Mr. Moore announced the suspension of all shuttle operations and the appointment of an interim board of inquiry until a final one is appointed.
And late last week, White House officials said Mr. Reagan was considering appointing an independent panel to look into the future of NASA’s space program.
The investigation, officials told The New York Times, would not center on the shuttle explosion but would include a review of the NASA board of inquiry’s work.
Vol. 5, Issue 21, Page 8