THE CHALLENGER: AN AVOIDABLE TRAGEDY : Fletcher Text: ‘Time for . . . Constructive Review’

Associated Press

This is a partial text of the statement of NASA administrator James C. Fletcher on the shuttle commission report:

For over a quarter of a century, certainly since John F. Kennedy pledged in 1961 that we would be on the moon by the end of that decade, the American people have had a special relationship with our space program. They have cheered with us and wept tears of both excitement and sadness. They have seen near perfection. They have seen absolute tragedy. . . .

Today, the Rogers Commission has issued its report. . . . Its conclusions, no matter how tough, how pointed, how questioning they may be, are not unexpected and certainly not entirely undeserved.

We--and I mean all of us at NASA--will be studying the commission’s judgments and recommendations carefully and thoroughly during the days ahead. We will be offering . . . our responses in an orderly and timely way. . . .


The report deserves that kind of thoughtful treatment. To give it less is to insult a distinguished group of citizens who are serious and concerned about what went wrong. . . .

They are determined, as is NASA, to ensure that this program will become as good as it ever was and as good as it ever can be. . . .

We at NASA welcome the report. It was obviously time for a serious, thoughtful, constructive review of the agency. . . .

I have accepted the President’s call to make this agency as vibrant and careful as it can be, to help it earn the respect it deserves and the excellence that has been its hallmark.


We will achieve those goals in a more restrictive atmosphere than we have been accustomed to. Like other departments and agencies of government, we work under the severe budget limitations and restrictions of our time. . . . But we cannot and will not sacrifice safety concerns to budget limitations.

We are going to behave like a family which has suffered a tragic event. We are going to deal responsibly with our loss, without needless recrimination, and we are going to move forward, facing and conquering the challenges that face us.

Where management is weak, we will strengthen it. Where engineering or design or process need improving, we will improve them. Where our internal communications are poor, we will see that they get better.

This is an agency whose excellence and commitment to new frontiers drew to it seven exceptional Americans. Our response must be to overcome our errors, not to quit, to stop, or to cave in. To stumble now in hesitation is to mock their commitment to reaching for distant horizons and their willingness to take a chance in seeking knowledge and understanding. . . .