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National Space Day & Reagan’s Commitment to Space Exploration

May 01, 2020
IN HIS WORDS

While the recent announcement of the Space Force has reignited passion for space voyaging and protection, it’s a topic that has been at the heart of the American consciousness for decades—and one that was particularly championed by President Ronald Reagan. The many space achievements Reagan ushered in are among the innovations celebrated on National Space Day. Recognized the first Friday of May, National Space Day is an opportunity to look back on the breakthroughs, the challenges and the people who have made the United States the world’s leader in space exploration. Among those people is President Ronald Reagan. From the time he took office in 1981, he started following through on his campaign pledge to reenergize the national commitment to space. That year, the nation saw the Space Shuttle Columbia launch back into space, after six years of delays and challenges, showing Americans the path forward. When the crew returned, Reagan personally celebrated with them, holding a Fourth of July event in their honor in which he modeled for Americans the honor and respect their sacrifices deserved—laying the groundwork for National Space Day. He also held a public event to celebrate the launch of the Shuttle Orbiter Challenger, another high point early in his administration. Check out additional achievements of Reagan’s presidency.

While the United States was and still is a global leader when it comes to studying and exploring space, Reagan had the forethought to know we needed to work with our international partners. To that end, he authorized the creation of a permanent space station, with an intentional focus on the cooperation of space experts from around the globe. Today, the International Space Station stands in tribute to his innovative leadership and is a major focus of National Space Day.

While Reagan’s tenure was filled with achievements, there were also challenges. One of the nation’s most tragic accidents occurred in the pursuit of space exploration: the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, in which seven crew members were killed. While the nation mourned, President Reagan offered words of support and solace, all while keeping their hopes for the United States’ leadership in space alive. “The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave,” said.

On this National Space Day, let’s honor the brave men and women who have paved the way for American innovation—and recommit to President Ronald Reagan’s bright and visionary leadership.

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