THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT HBO SCREENING
The East Room
8:00 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to all. Thank you, John Kennedy, for those wonderful remarks. Thank you, Jeff Bewkes, for taking a chance on this project. I know it's a big, big project. I predict it will get a big, big response from the American people. Thank you, Tom Hanks, and thank all of you who were part of this.
I'd also like to thank the people at NASA, with whom you worked -- I'm sure many of them are here -- for the work they do every day. I thank all the astronauts who are here. And we're especially proud of Lt. Colonel Eileen Collins, who will be our first woman mission leader very soon.
There's not much more that needs to be said. But as one of the graduates of the class of 1968, I want to thank all of you for saving 1968 all over again. (Laughter.)
Hillary, today, when we honored Eileen Collins, pointed out that when she was a young girl she wrote off to NASA and asked for information about how to be an astronaut. And she was told that, at the time, women were not welcome in the program. Today, we see that change.
The growth of the space program and the way it's changed and strengthened is in many ways evidence of the growth of America over the last three decades. And I think any of us who had anything to do with it have been profoundly proud of it. Hillary mentioned the Mars mission that seemed, once again, to sort of spark the popular imagination in our nation for the space program with the wonderful Sojourner looking around for red rocks with wonderful names like Scooby-doo. (Laughter.)
You know, the international space station will be up before long. And it will literally be the size of a football field. Now, the vehicle John Glenn went up in over 35 years ago was about the size of a compact car. And when the space station is there it will change forever the way people can relate to the Earth and to the other planets in the solar system.
All of this has happened for a lot of reasons. There are members of Congress here and I thank them for their presence -- Congress continued to support the space station and space program against the kinds of criticisms that are still current today that John so eloquently chronicled from the 1960s.
President Kennedy wanted us to become the world's leading space-faring nation, and we have. I want us to continue that distinction well into the 21st century. It is profoundly important to us. Colonel Collins, for example, will lead us in an effort to launch a telescope that will allow us to peer into the deepest reaches of outer space. The new balanced budget will support 28 more space missions, to help us decipher more of the mysteries of black holes, of ancient stars, of the Earth itself.
The knowledge we gain from these missions will help us to solve problems here on Earth, from osteoporosis to ovarian cancer. It will help to make our farms more productive. It will help us to deal with the crisis of global warming. And, as the distinguished scientist, Stephen Hawking, who will be in this place tomorrow night, has pointed out, it may well help us uncover the very origins of human life itself.
I hope all of you who are part of this project will be able to look back 10, 20, 30, 40 years from now with immense pride that you have once again sparked the imagination, the dreams, the hopes and the courage of the American people to follow our astronauts into space and to follow our imaginations wherever they lead.
Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
There are so many wonderful people here tonight, I hesitate to acknowledge anyone. But someone who helped us all get through that era is here -- Walter Cronkite, thank you very much for your presence. (Applause.)
And now Hillary and I would like to invite you all into the State Dining Room for a reception, where we will try to stay on both feet on the ground. (Laughter.) Thank you and bless you. Let's go in. (Applause.)
END 8:05 P.M. EST