[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[April 14, 1998]
[Pages 558-560]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 558]]

Remarks at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston
April 14, 1998

    Thank you very much. Once again, I'm delighted to be back here. I 
have to beg your pardon for starting this program a little late, but 
when I get here, I get involved in what I'm doing. And besides that, 
John Glenn wanted to make sure I saw every single 
square inch--[laughter]--of space he would be living 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 Dan Goldin for doing a 
marvelous job. One thing he did not mention was the fact that he made 
the decision, which I strongly supported, to continue our involvement 
with the Mir, to participate with our partners 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 
very much 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 member of my Cabinet, and I see you've gone on to 
higher things. [Laughter]
    That reminds me--you know, Abraham Lincoln used to keep regular 
office hours in the White House. And a woman broke in the White House 
one day, in a fit of anger and anxiety, worried about something, and she 
ran into him. And she was so excited she didn't recognize him--there 
wasn't any television back then, of course--and she said, ``I demand 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's the first mayor, actually sitting mayor, to come out 
here to the Johnson Center, and I think that's a very good thing, and I 
appreciate that.
    I'd like to thank Congressman Lampson. You 
just heard--he's the fairly eloquent advocate on your behalf. I asked 
him whether he and I should volunteer to go to Mars if we get the 
mission. It would make a lot of people happy, at least if I went, I 
think. [Laughter]
    I'd like to thank Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee and Gene Green and Ken 
Bentsen for being here today and for the work 
they do for Texas, for the Houston area. I'd like to thank your Land 
Commissioner, Garry Mauro, and your State 
Senator, Rodney Ellis, for being here, and 
the other city officials who are here, Don Boney, Sylvia Garcia. Judge 
Eckels, thank you for coming. I'd like to 
thank Colonel Curt Brown, who is the 
commander for the mission Senator Glenn is going 
to. And you see his whole team back here, including a member from 
Japan and a member from Europe, who is a native from Madrid, Spain. And we're glad to 
have all of them here.
    I'd like to thank David Wolfe and all the 
other astronauts that showed me around, and also the folks on the 
Neurolab team that talked to me by long distance.
    I have had another great day here at the Johnson Space Center. On 
behalf of all your fellow Americans, I want to thank you, those of you 
who work here, for expanding the frontiers of our knowledge, launching 
our imagination, helping our spirits to soar. Each of you--our 
scientists, our engineers, our astronauts, those of you who work in 
other capacities--embody the bold, restless, pioneering spirit of 
    I'm also proud to be here, as Dan Goldin said, with our oldest 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 been good friends of Hillary's and mine for a 
long time now. I have loved working with him in Washington. I, frankly, 
was heartsick when he said 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 get me into space?'' [Laughter] I said, ``Now, wait a 
minute, John, you're too old to do 6 more years in the Senate, but 
you're plenty young enough to go into space?''
    The truth is, this man has done 149 combat 
missions in World War II and Korea; 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 history-
making seconds aboard Friendship 7; and 4 terms in the United States 
Senate. In today's atmosphere, perhaps that latter accomplish was his 
most hazardous duty; maybe it is safer for him to go into space. 
[Laughter] But he's here doing what he has desperately wanted to do. And 
I think I can say, without fear of anyone contradicting me,

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that the decision was made by Dan Goldin to 
allow Senator Glenn to participate because we thought it would be good 
for the space program, good for science, good for the American people, 
good for our future.
    The only thing is--as Dan and I were talking on the way in about 
what remarkable shape John and Annie are in, and the whole purpose of him going up there, 
you know, is to find out what the effects of space and long space travel 
are on the aging process and on the elderly, and since he really hasn't 
aged in the last 40 years--it's going to be a total bust. [Laughter] But 
we'll get a kick out of watching him wander around up there anyway.
    I do want to say, seriously, we are living longer than ever before 
as Americans. It is imperative that we live healthier than ever before. 
That requires not only the maintenance of our physical health, but the 
continuing fires of our imagination.
    We have a lot of health care costs now associated with our 
longevity. A lot of people complain about it. I personally think it's a 
high-class problem, and the older I get, the more I think it's a high-
class problem. But it is imperative that we learn as much as we can 
about the aging process. That's one of the most exciting things I think 
will come out of the Neurolab mission that's going up on Thursday. It's 
also imperative that we hold up as role models people who, in their mid-
seventies, still dare to dream new dreams. And I think we should all 
learn a lesson from that, whether we can go into space or not.
    Thanks to NASA, America has met President Kennedy's challenge of 
becoming the world's leading space-faring nation. We've left our 
footprints on the Moon, explored the surface of Mars, completed 89 space 
shuttle missions, orbited Earth for 755 days, 12 hours, and 44 minutes. 
When the 90th mission lifts off into space this Thursday, 238 Americans 
will have had the chance to see the stars up close, and more and more, 
to see the stars up close and to work with dedicated people from other 
nations who share the same goals and dreams of a peaceful, cooperative 
    We've launched satellites and probes that have alerted us to weather 
phenomenon like El Nino, discovered water on the Moon, made 
instantaneous communication between peoples on opposite sides of the 
Earth a reality.
    And yet, even as you have worked hard to reach for the stars, NASA 
has more than ever kept its feet grounded in fiscal discipline. 
Congressman Lampson's claim for an adequate 
budget for NASA's future is bolstered by the leadership Dan 
Goldin has given. Since 1993, productivity 
at NASA has increased by 40 percent; new spacecraft are being built in 
half the time at much less cost. That is something you can be proud of. 
And in the 1980's, we launched just two solar system exploration 
missions. This year we're on schedule to launch a spacecraft every 10 
    I am committed to maintaining a strong, stable, balanced space 
program. Our balanced budget will support 28 new space missions--
missions that will help us decipher more of the mysteries of black holes 
and ancient stars and of Earth and, indeed, life itself.
    Hillary and I are working on a big national celebration of the 
millennium, which, as you know, is not very many days away now, and we 
have called it, ``honoring our past and imagining our future.'' We have 
asked the Congress to dramatically increase the research and development 
budget for America across all the areas where we need to be learning 
more and looking more. We cannot imagine our future without a vigorous, 
comprehensive, and consistent commitment to our mission in space. And I 
thank you for what you're doing today.
    On the day after Senator Glenn's first historic flight, at the 
height of the cold war, President Kennedy invited the Russians to join 
us in exploring outer space. ``We believe that when men reach beyond 
this planet they should leave their national differences behind them,'' 
he said. ``All will benefit if we can invoke the wonders of science 
instead of its errors.'' Thirty-six years later, we are indeed leaving 
behind national differences, invoking the wonders of science for the 
benefit of humanity.
    Seven Americans have lived aboard the Russian space station, Mir--
the last 6 for 25 consecutive months--working with Russians and 14 other 
nations. Soon, the international space station will be launched--the 
size of a football field, so large it will 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 not abandon it. 
And 10 or 20 years from now, people will wonder that we ever even 
considered such a

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thing, because we will all, before long, be thanking our lucky stars 
that we had the vision to work with people from around the world to set 
up the international space station in the sky. From it we will explore 
vast new frontiers, chart unexplored seas, reach a little deeper into 
the vast final frontier.
    In so many ways, your mission here at NASA reflects the spirit of 
America for every child who's ever tied a cape made of a sheet or a rag 
around his neck and dreamed of flying, for every mother who ever sang a 
child to sleep with ``Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,'' for every senior 
citizen who ever stared at the heavens in the wonder of what might be 
out there. You are the place where dreams are made real, where 
impossible missions are accomplished by remarkable people.
    We have become a great nation in no small measure because our people 
have always recognized the limitless possibilities of the human spirit. 
I have every confidence that those of you who work here at Johnson Space 
Center will always carry that conviction not only in your minds but in 
your hearts. When it comes to exploring space, we must never consider 
any mission impossible. The story of our space program is the story of 
barriers broken and new worlds uncovered. Let us make sure that is the 
story of our space program in the 21st century.
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:55 p.m. in Building 9. In his remarks, 
he referred to George W.S. Abbey, Director, Lyndon B. Johnson Space 
Center; Houston Mayor Lee Patrick Brown; City Councilman Jew Don Boney, 
Jr.; City Controller Sylvia R. Garcia; Judge Robert A. Eckels, Harris 
County Commissioners Court; Lt. Col. Curtis L. Brown, Jr., USAF, STS-95 
mission commander; and astronauts Chiaki Mukai, Japanese Space Agency, 
Pedro Duque, European Space Agency, and David A. Wolfe, NASA.