Ladies and Gentlemen,
I‘d planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union,
but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans.
Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to
the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger.
We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This
is truly a national loss.
Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a
terrible accident on the ground.
But, we‘ve never lost an astronaut in flight. We‘ve never had a tragedy
And perhaps we‘ve forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the
But they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame
them and did their jobs brilliantly.
We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald
McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe.
We mourn their loss as a nation together.
For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full
impact of this tragedy.
But we feel the loss, and we‘re thinking about you so very much.
Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace,
that special spirit that says, “Give me a challenge, and I‘ll meet it
They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They
wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.
We‘ve grown used to wonders in this century.
It‘s hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States
space program has been doing just that.
We‘ve grown used to the idea of space, and, perhaps we forget that we‘ve
only just begun.
We‘re still pioneers.
They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.
And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were
watching the live coverage of the shuttle‘s take-off.
I know it‘s hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this
It‘s all part of the process of exploration and discovery.
It‘s all part of taking a chance and expanding man‘s horizons.
The future doesn‘t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.
The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we‘ll continue
to follow them.
I‘ve always had great faith in and respect for our space program.
And what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don‘t hide our
We don‘t keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in
That‘s the way freedom is, and we wouldn‘t change it for a minute.
We‘ll continue our quest in space.
There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more
volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space.
Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue.
I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works
for NASA, or who worked on this mission and tell them:
“Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for
decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it.”
There‘s a coincidence today.
On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died
aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers
were the oceans, and a historian later said,
“He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.” Well, today, we
can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake‘s,
The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in
which they lived their lives.
We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning,
as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the
surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”