President Clinton Visits Johnson Space Center

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 14, 1998


Building 9
Johnson Space Center

12:55 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Once again, I'mdelighted to be back here. I have to beg your pardon for startingthis program a little late, but when I get here I get involved inwhat I'm doing and, besides that, John Glenn wanted to make sure Isaw every single square inch -- (laughter) -- of space he would beliving and maneuvering in -- which didn't take all that long to see,actually. (Laughter.)

But we've had a wonderful day. I want to thank DanGoldin for doing a marvelous job. One thing he did not mention wasthe fact that he made the decision, which I strongly supported, tocontinue our involvement with the MIR, to participate with ourpartners there in the spirit of international cooperation in space.And I thank him for that.

I'd also like to say to George Abbey, thank you verymuch for all the work that you and all the wonderful people here do.Thank you, Mayor Brown. I'm very proud that you were once a memberof my Cabinet, and I see you've gone on to higher things.(Laughter.)

You know, Abraham Lincoln used to keep regular officehours in the White House. And a woman broke in the White House oneday in a fit of anger and anxiety, worried about something, and sheran into him. And she was so excited she didn't recognize him.There wasn't any television back then, of course. And she said, "Idemand to speak to no one lower than the President." And he said,"Ma'am, there is no one lower than the President." (Laughter.)

So you folks gave Lee a promotion. I understand he'sthe first mayor, actually sitting mayor, to come out here to the

Johnson Center, and I think that's a very good thing and I appreciatethat. (Applause.)

I'd like to thank Congressman Lampson. You just heard,he's the fairly eloquent advocate on your behalf. I asked himwhether he and I should volunteer to go to Mars if we get themission. It would make a lot of people happy at least if I went, Ithink. (Laughter.)

I'd like to thank Representative Sheila Jackson Lee andGene Green and Ken Bentsen for being here today and for the work theydo for Texas, for the Houston area. I'd like to thank your LandCommissioner Garry Mauro, and your State Senator Rodney Ellis forbeing here, and the other city officials who are here -- Don Boney,Sylvia Garcia, Judge Eckels, thank you for coming. I'd like to thankColonel Curt Brown who is the Commander for the mission Senator Glennis going to. And you see his whole team back here, including amember from Japan and a member from Europe who is a native fromMadrid, Spain. And we're glad to have all of them here.

I'd like to thank David Wolfe and all the otherastronauts that showed me around, and also the folks on the neuro-labteam that talked to me by long distance.

I have had another great day here at the Johnson SpaceCenter. On behalf of all your fellow Americans, I want to thank you,those of you who work here, for expanding the frontiers of ourknowledge, launching our imagination, helping our spirits to soar.Each of you -- our scientists, our engineers, our astronauts, thoseof you who work in other capacities -- embody the bold, restless,pioneering spirit of America.

I'm also proud to be here, as Dan Goldin said, with ouroldest and newest man in space, John Glenn. He and Mrs. Glenn --Annie, who is here with us, and I'm delighted to see her -- have beengood friends of Hillary's and mine for a long time now. I have lovedworking with him in Washington. I, frankly, was heartsick when hesaid he wasn't going to run again for the Senate. He said, "Well,I'm too old." (Laughter.) And he said, "Oh, by the way, can you getme into space?" (Laughter.) I said, "Now, wait a minute, John,you're too old to do six more years in the Senate, but you're plentyyoung enough to go into space?"

The truth is, this man has done 149 combat missions inWorld War II and Korea; four hours, 55 minutes and 23 history-makingseconds aboard Friendship 7; and four terms in the United StatesSenate. In today's atmosphere, perhaps that latter accomplished washis most hazardous duty -- maybe it is safer for him to go intospace. (Laughter.)

But he's here doing what he has desperately wanted todo. And I think I can say without fear of anyone contradicting methat the decision was made by Dan Goldin to allow Senator Glenn toparticipate because we thought it would be good for the spaceprogram, good for science, good for the American people, good for ourfuture.

The only thing is, as Dan and I were talking on the wayin about what remarkable shape John and Annie are in, and the wholepurpose of him going up there, you know, is to find out what theeffects of space and long space travel are on the aging process andon the elderly -- and since he really hasn't aged in the last 40years, it's going to be a total bust. (Laughter.) But we'll get akick out of watching him wander around up there anyway.

I do want to say seriously, we are living longer thanever before as Americans. It is imperative that we live healthierthan ever before. That requires not only the maintenance of ourphysical health, but the continuing fires of our imagination.

We have a lot of health care costs now associated withour longevity. A lot of people complain about it; I personally thinkit's a high-class problem. And the older I get, the more I thinkit's a high-class problem. But it is imperative that we learn asmuch as we can about the aging process. That's one of the mostexciting things I think will come out of the neuro lab mission that'sgoing up on Thursday. It's also imperative that we hold up as rolemodels people who, in their mid-70s, still dare to dream new dreams.And I think we should all learn a lesson from that, whether we gointo space, or not. (Applause.)

Thanks to NASA, America has met President Kennedy'schallenge of becoming the world's leading space-faring nation. We'veleft our footprints on the moon, explored the surface of Mars,completed 89 space shuttle missions, orbited Earth for 755 days, 12hours and 44 minutes. When the 90th mission lifts off into spacethis Thursday, 238 Americans will have had the chance to see thestars up close, and more and more, to see the stars up close and towork with dedicated people from other nations who share the samegoals and dreams of a peaceful, cooperative future.

We've launched satellites and probes that have alertedus to weather phenomenon like El Nino; discovered water on the moon;made instantaneous communication between peoples on opposite sides ofthe Earth a reality.

And yet, even as you have worked hard to reach for thestars, NASA has more than ever kept its feet grounded in fiscaldiscipline. Congressman Lampson's claim for an adequate budget forNASA's future is bolstered by the leadership Dan Goldin has given.Since 1993, productivity at NASA has increased by 40 percent; newspacecraft are being built in half the time at much less cost. Thatis something you can be proud of. And in the 1980s, we launched justtwo solar system exploration missions. This year we're on scheduleto launch a spacecraft every 10 weeks.

I am committed to maintaining a strong, stable, balancedspace program. Our balanced budget will support 28 new spacemissions -- missions that will help us decipher more of the mysteriesof black holes and ancient stars and of Earth and, indeed, lifeitself.

Hillary and I are working on a big national celebrationof the millennium, which, as you know, is not very many days awaynow, and we have called it "honoring our past and imagining ourfuture." We have asked the Congress to dramatically increase theresearch and development budget for America across all the areaswhere we need to be learning more and looking more. We cannotimagine our future without a vigorous, comprehensive, and consistentcommitment to our mission in space. And I thank youfor what you're doing -- (applause.)

On the day after Senator Glenn's first historic flight,at the height of the Cold War, President Kennedy invited the Russiansto join us in exploring outer space. "We believe that when men reachbeyond this planet they should leave their national differencesbehind them," he said. "All will benefit if we can invoke thewonders of science instead of its errors." Thirty-six years later,we are indeed leaving behind national differences, invoking thewonders of science for the benefit of humanity.

Seven Americans have lived aboard the Russian spacestation, Mir -- the last six for 25 consecutive months -- workingwith Russians and 14 other nations. Soon the international spacestation will be launched -- the size of a football field, so large itwill actually be visible to the naked eye here on Earth.

Yes, as Mr. Goldin alluded, it was a fight for awhile,and there were those who thought we should abandon it, but we did notabandon it. And 10 or 20 years from now, people will wonder that weever even considered such a thing because we will all, before long,be thanking our lucky stars that we had the vision to work withpeople from around the world to set up the international spacestation in the sky. (Applause.) From it we will explore vast newfrontiers, chart unexplored seas, reach a little deeper into the vastfinal frontier.

In so many ways, your mission here at NASA reflects thespirit of America, for every child who's ever tied a cape made of asheet or a rag around his neck and dreamed of flying, for everymother who ever sang a child to sleep with "Twinkle, Twinkle, LittleStar," for every senior citizen who ever starred at the heavens inthe wonder of what might be out there, you are the place where dreamsare made real, where impossible missions are accomplished byremarkable people.

We have become a great nation in no small measurebecause our people have always recognized the limitless possibilitiesof the human spirit. I have every confidence that those of you whowork here at Johnson Space Center will always carry that convictionnot only in your minds, but in your hearts. When it comes toexploring space, we must never consider any mission impossible. Thestory of our space program is the story of barriers broken and newworlds uncovered. Let us make sure that is the story of our spaceprogram in the 21st century.

Thank you, and God bless you. (Applause.)

What's New - April 1998

Supporters of the 1993 Budget

ESPN Race Town Hall

50th Anniversary of Israel Event

President Addresses Chilean Congress

President Clinton Challenges Teens to Stop Smoking

Minority Youth Tobacco Use

President Urges Congress To Pass Comprehensive Tobacco

President Clinton Commends Northern Ireland Peace

Medicare and Social Security Trustees

Legislative Agenda

President Clinton Calls Astronauts

Winter Olympic and Paralympic Athletes

Earth Day at Harper's Ferry

Johnson Space Center Visit

Better, Safer, More Affordable Child Care

Ban on Assualt Weapons

Announcement of OMB Director Departure

Teacher of the Year Event

Social Security Forum

Alabama Diasaster Victims

Social Security Panel Discussion

Need For School Construction

Strength of America's Economy

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