Eulogy delivered by President Reagan on January 31, 1986 at a memorial
service held in Houston Texas for the Challenger astronauts -- Dick Scobee,
Michael Smith, Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis and
"We come together today to mourn the loss of seven brave Americans, to share
the grief we all feel and, perhaps in that sharing, to find the strength to bear
our sorrow and the courage to look for the seeds of hope.
Our nation's loss is first a profound personal loss to the family and the
friends and loved ones of our Shuttle astronauts.
To those they have left behind--the mothers, the fathers, the husbands and
wives, brothers, sisters, and yes, especially the children--all of America
stands beside you in your time of sorrow.
What we say today is only an inadequate expression of what we carry in our
hearts. Words pale in the shadow of grief; they seem insufficient even to
measure the brave sacrifice of those you loved and we so admired. Their truest
testimony will not be in the words we speak, but in the way they led their lives
and in the way they lost those lives--with dedication, honor and an unquenchable
desire to explore this mysterious and beautiful universe.
The best we can do is remember our seven astronauts--our Challenger
Seven--remember them as they lived, bringing life and love and joy to those who
knew them and pride to a nation.
They came from all parts of this great country--from South Carolina to
Washington State; Ohio to Mohawk, New York; Hawaii to North Carolina to Concord,
New Hampshire. They were so different, yet in their mission, their quest, they
held so much in common.
We remember Dick Scobee, the Commander who spoke the last words we heard from
the Space Shuttle Challenger. He served as a fighter pilot in Vietnam, earning
many medals for bravery, and later as a test pilot of advanced aircraft before
joining the space program. Danger was a familiar companion to Commander Scobee.
We remember Michael Smith, who earned enough medals as a combat pilot to cover
his chest, including the Navy Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals--and
the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star, in gratitude from a nation
that he fought to keep free.
We remember Judith Resnik, known as J.R. to her friends, always smiling, always
eager to make a contribution, finding beauty in the music she played on her
piano in her off-hours.
We remember Ellison Onizuka, who, as a child running barefoot through the coffee
fields and macadamia groves of Hawaii, dreamed of someday traveling to the Moon.
Being an Eagle Scout, he said, had helped him soar to the impressive achievement
of his career.
We remember Ronald McNair, who said that he learned perseverance in the cotton
fields of South Carolina. His dream was to live aboard the Space Station,
performing experiments and playing his saxophone in the weightlessness of space;
Ron, we will miss your saxophone and we will build your Space Station.
We remember Gregory Jarvis. On that ill-fated flight he was carrying with him a
flag of his university in Buffalo, New York--a small token he said, to the
people who unlocked his future.
We remember Christa McAuliffe, who captured the imagination of the entire
nation, inspiring us with her pluck, her restless spirit of discovery; a
teacher, not just to her students, but to an entire people, instilling us all
with the excitement of this journey we ride into the future.
We will always remember them, these skilled professionals, scientists and
adventurers, these artists and teachers and family men and women, and we will
cherish each of their stories--stories of triumph and bravery, stories of true
On the day of the disaster, our nation held a vigil by our television sets. In
one cruel moment, our exhilaration turned to horror; we waited and watched and
tried to make sense of what we had seen. That night, I listened to a call-in
program on the radio: people of every age spoke of their sadness and the pride
they felt in 'our astronauts.' Across America, we are reaching out, holding
hands, finding comfort in one another.
The sacrifice of your loved ones has stirred the soul of our nation and, through
the pain, our hearts have been opened to a profound truth--the future is not
free, the story of all human progress is one of a struggle against all odds.
We learned again that this America, which Abraham Lincoln called the last
best hope of man on Earth, was built on heroism and noble sacrifice. It was
built by men and women like our seven star voyagers, who answered a call beyond
duty, who gave more than was expected or required, and who gave it with little
thought to worldly reward.
We think back to the pioneers of an earlier century, and the sturdy souls who
took their families and the belongings and set out into the frontier of the
American West. Often, they met with terrible hardship. Along the Oregon Trail
you can still see the grave markers of those who fell on the way. But grief only
steeled them to the journey ahead.
Today, the frontier is space and the boundaries of human knowledge. Sometimes,
when we reach for the stars, we fall short. But we must pick ourselves up again
and press on despite the pain. Our nation is indeed fortunate that we can still
draw on immense reservoirs of courage, character and fortitude--that we are
still blessed with heroes like those of the Space Shuttle Challenger.
Dick Scobee knew that every launching of a Space Shuttle is a technological
miracle. And he said, if something ever does go wrong, I hope that doesn't mean
the end to the Space Shuttle program. Every family member I talked to asked
specifically that we continue the program, that that is what their departed
loved one would want above all else. We will not disappoint them.
Today, we promise Dick Scobee and his crew that their dream lives on; that the
future they worked so hard to build will become reality. The dedicated men and
women of NASA have lost seven members of their family. Still, they too, must
forge ahead, with a space program that is effective, safe and efficient, but
bold and committed.
Man will continue his conquest of space. To reach out for new goals and ever
greater achievements--that is the way we shall commemorate our seven Challenger
Dick, Mike, Judy, El, Ron, Greg and Christa--your families and your country
mourn your passing. We bid you goodbye. We will never forget you. For those who
knew you well and loved you, the pain will be deep and enduring. A nation, too,
will long feel the loss of her seven sons and daughters, her seven good friends.
We can find consolation only in faith, for we know in our hearts that you who
flew so high and so proud now make your home beyond the stars, safe in God's
promise of eternal life.
May God bless you all and give you comfort in this difficult time."