Remarks During a Visit to the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland

August 30, 1984

The President. Thank you, Jim Beggs. I'm a little self-conscious right now about arriving in kind of an old-fashioned way -- in a helicopter. And after what I've seen here, I'm even more self-conscious about the fact that I'm a captain of the horse cavalry. [Laughter]

But I'm delighted to be with you today and to have this chance to say congratulations on this morning's lift-off of the Discovery mission. I'm honored to meet all of you who are making this great adventure happen. You've sparked the dreams and imagination of the Nation -- from the youngest boys and girls in classrooms across our country to individuals like myself who are approaching the outer limits of their middle-age years. [Laughter]

You go quietly about your work, far removed from the glare and the gloss and the glitter of public spotlights. But what you do is important. You're expanding our wealth of knowledge, and with that knowledge, you're fueling a mighty tide of progress, carrying the hope of an optimistic future for people here and everywhere.

Yours is the work of a true revolution; not a revolution poisoned by hatred and violence and the will to conquer, but one that's rising from the deepest yearnings of the human spirit that challenge the limits of knowledge and to put the power of discovery at the service of our most noble and generous impulses for decency, progress, and, yes, for peace.

Today, on behalf of a grateful nation, I salute you and your colleagues in private enterprise and the academic world. You're the heroes of high-tech; the pulse of America's technological power; the champions of a confident people whose faith and courage are pushing America up and out to a world of wonders for us, our children, and our children's children.

The space age is barely a quarter of a century old, but already we have taken giant steps for all mankind. And our progress is a tribute to American teamwork and excellence. We can be proud that we're first, we're the best; and we are so because we're free.

There's nothing that the United States of America cannot accomplish, if the doubting Thomases would just stand aside and get out of our way. In a single generation, we've freed ourselves from the bounds of Earth; we've set our footprints on the surface of the Moon; we've used our instruments to explore space, the Sun, and our sister planets; and our space shuttle provides the first reusable space transportation system for research, commercialization of space, and scientific exploration.

Meeting these great challenges has given us benefits far more valuable than our original investments. It has proven wrong those dreary souls who lacked the vision to support your efforts. With their pessimism, America could never have gotten off the ground. And with your space shuttle, we have again and again. And I'm convinced your success confirms a vision that we share: An America unafraid, reaching into space with courage and leadership, will be an America unsurpassed. We have it within our power to create a bounty of new jobs, technologies, and medical breakthroughs surpassing anything we've ever dreamed before or imagined.

We already benefit daily from a modern revolution in worldwide communications. We can communicate with each other at a moment's notice, virtually anywhere on the globe. We can anticipate tomorrow's weather and prepare for it. Our space shuttle system provides access to space for science, technology, communications, and national security.

Only a few weeks ago, we watched the Olympics on television, sharing excitement with people all over the world. I can remember -- and believe me it doesn't seem long ago -- when we lived in the horse-and-buggy days of television. We couldn't see a breaking event on the other side of the world until the film was shipped here. But, today, thanks to your research and development work, we have modern communications satellites beaming crystal-clear telecasts worldwide.

Another quiet revolution in technology has also been driven, in part, by the rigors of our space program. New materials from plentiful natural resources like carbon and silicon are taking the place of expensive metals in virtually all manufactured products. Our automobile engineers in Detroit are using lightweight, super-strong, plastic-like materials to reduce the weight of modern cars -- and consumers are getting the benefits in the form of more miles to the gallon.

Computers using microchips are constantly redefining our world as they become smaller, more powerful, and less expensive. Those chips are the heart of inexpensive electronic calculators now commonplace in the workplace, community, and classroom.

Sometimes these technological changes take place so gracefully over time that we hardly notice them. Today our children have access to more computer power than most professional scientists and engineers had in their laboratories at the beginning of the space age.

Dr. Robert Jastrow, chairman of the first NASA lunar exploration committee, predicted nearly 2 years ago that the computer industry would double in size by 1986, becoming America's biggest business. Already, tens of thousands of practical applications of space and aeronautical technology are touching our lives. I've just seen an exhibit here with a vast array of new products from lifesaving vests for firemen to sophisticated aerial-scanning techniques to locate and identify everything from schools of fish to mineral deposits to healthy timberland.

In medicine we're seeing the vision of technology with a human face with one miraculous breakthrough after another. The procedure called CAT scanning uses a computer to compile a clear picture from x rays taken at different angles, often permitting patients to avoid the risks and discomforts of surgery. CAT scanning has come a lifesaver in detecting diseases of the brain and other vital organs.

The pioneer field of computer-controlled walking has given hope to thousands of paralyzed Americans that, someday, they may walk again.

The widespread use of sound waves allows doctors to avoid potentially harmful use of x rays. Using sound waves to monitor the progress of babies inside the womb permits earlier diagnosis of problems, a safer pregnancy and delivery for the mother, and better health for the baby.

HTS, for Human Tissue Stimulator, sends electrical impulses through wire leads to targeted nerve centers or particular areas of the brain, providing relief from pain and stopping unwanted involuntary motion. I'm happy to point out that HTS was sponsored by the Goddard Space Center.

I've also been shown a hand-held x-ray machine and the Programmable Implantable Medication System, called PIMS, that administers medication automatically within the body.

It would be difficult to put a pricetag on the value of these human benefits. Even more dazzling opportunities lie ahead, if only we have the faith and courage to keep pushing on. Each technological breakthrough enables us to work from a new and higher plateau. It opens the door to great leaps in productivity which would have been considered unthinkable only a few decades ago.

Permit me to suggest that the fraternity of pessimists, who today insist strong growth will ignite high inflation, are looking at abstract statistics, theories, and models, not the reality of a changing world. They do not see that as we acquire more and more knowledge from new technologies, we no longer move forward in inches or feet; we begin to leap forward.

Working the zero-gravity environment of space, we can manufacture in just 1 month's time lifesaving medicines that it would take 30 years to manufacture on Earth. And we can manufacture crystals of exceptional purity that may enable us to produce super computers and make even greater breakthroughs in productivity.

Our vision is not an impossible dream; it's a waking dream. As Americans, let us cultivate the art of seeing things invisible. Only by challenging the limits of growth will we have the strength and knowledge to make America a rocket of hope shooting to the stars.

High technology is born from capital, and more capital will require continued incentives for risktaking and investment, not tax increases, which would stifle growth. We support high-tech, not high taxes. The Federal Government must constantly endeavor to strengthen the private economy, while supporting research and development, particularly in universities, to train tomorrow's industrial and academic scientists and engineers.

Our agenda for excellence in education at the elementary and secondary school level is also crucial, so students, like those I met at Jefferson Junior High School on Monday, can acquire the knowledge to enter universities and, one day, step into these vital positions of leadership and responsibility.

Between 1981 and 1985, Federal investment in basic research will have increased by almost 30 percent in real terms. And we will carry forward that strong commitment into the future. We will also continue our support of tax credits for industrial R&D expenses, and we'll strive to lessen concerns that cooperative R&D between companies may violate antitrust statutes.

With the power of economic growth and the courage and determination of a free people, we can keep our number one challenge in space -- to develop a permanently manned space station, and do it within a decade. From that space station, we can carry out the kind of work in medicines and crystals I mentioned a moment ago; we can conduct new research, explore the distant planets, and, at the same time, unlock the vast potential for commerce in space by easing tax laws and regulations which discriminate against commercial ventures. And we'll be doing all these things for the sake of a more peaceful and prosperous world.

America has always been greatest when we dared to be great. We will be leaders in space, because the American people would rather reach for the stars than reach for excuses why we shouldn't. And as American technology transforms the great black night of space into a bright new world of opportunities, we can use that knowledge to create a new American opportunity society here at home. We can ensure every person has not only an equal chance but a much greater chance to pursue the American dream.

To do this, we must maintain and increase our older industries ability to compete in the world, stimulate creation of sunrise industries, and meet the challenge of ensuring American leadership and prosperity into the 21st century. Call me an optimist, but I'm convinced that if we do accept this challenge, if we maximize incentives, invest fully in the new technologies, and strive for the great breakthroughs in productivity, then, yes, we can outproduce, outcompete, and outsell the pants off anybody, anywhere in the world.

We can build an America that offers productive, secure job opportunities for all our fellow citizens, from assemblyline workers to research scientists in new industries such as biotechnology, robotics, and information processing.

We can meet our goal of assuring adequate supplies of affordable energy so that never again will the American people be held hostage by a foreign cartel.

We can apply new agricultural technologies to preserve our soil and environment, and dramatically enhance productivity through improvements in crop yields and resistance to disease and harsh environments. We can enhance our world leadership in agricultural production and in nutritional assistance to millions who look to America for hope and for help.

If we're to keep our economy healthy and strong, we need to stay healthy and strong ourselves. Our success will depend on each person's willingness to adopt healthy habits, our collective ability to improve an already effective health care system, and our continued research and pioneer work in the kinds of medical technologies you're developing right here. Before this decade is out, our administration is committed to reducing significantly the death rate for all age groups and to ensuring older Americans can live healthier, longer, and more productive lives. We can, and we must.

The dream of America is much more than who we are or what we do. It is, above all, what we will be. We must always be the New World -- the world of discovery, the world that reveres the great truths of its past, but that looks forward with unending faith to the promise of the future. In my heart, I know we have that faith. The dream lives on. America will remain future's child, the golden hope for all mankind.

Thank you for welcoming me today. And thank you for all you do, and thank you for your courage to dream great dreams. God bless you all.

Mr. Beggs. Mr. President, if we may offer and present to you a small token of our appreciation for your coming here today. As you know, on the last shuttle mission, we went up and repaired a satellite. And that satellite, the Solar Maximum Mission Satellite, was developed here at Goddard; and indeed, the repairs were designed and developed here at Goddard. And they were installed with cooperation with the Houston Mission Control and the Houston astronauts, of course. It was a very successful mission, and we now have another very valuable scientific satellite working again for several years.

This model is a glass-blown model of that, showing the astronaut on his way out. And we hope that it will remind you many times, both of the visit to Goddard, as well as the strong support that you have given to this program and which we very much appreciate. And the encouragement which you continue to offer -- we thank you for that very much.

Since the model is fragile, we'll deliver it to the Oval Office.

The President. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Mr. Beggs. What do you do up there without a horse? [Laughter]

The President. Thank you all very much. And now, as a little girl told me in a letter a few years ago -- I'll get back to the office and go to work. [Laughter]

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:31 a.m. in Building 10 at the Center. Prior to his remarks, the President was given a tour of displays of space program activities by James M. Beggs, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Noel Hinners, Director of the Goddard Space Flight Center.