The Quest for Leadership
Keeping the United States the global leader in space capabilities and achievements was a constant theme throughout Ronald Reagan’s time in the White House. A “basic goal” of the initial Reagan National Space Policy, set out on July 4, 1982, was maintaining “United States space leadership.” As the administration entered its final two years, there was increasing attention to ensuring the Reagan legacy, in space as well as in other areas. Ensuring that the United States would maintain its leadership in the face of a very active Soviet space effort and increasing competition from Europe and Japan was a major focus of space policy-making in the Reagan administration during 1987–1988. In addition, a new National Space Policy reflecting the many changes since the 1982 policy had been issued was developed; it stated that “a fundamental objective guiding United States space activity has been, and continues to be, space leadership” and set “as a long-range goal … to expand human presence and activity beyond Earth orbit into the solar system.” The new policy was accompanied by 15 separately developed commercial space initiatives. In a September 1988 speech at the Johnson Space Center President Reagan clearly demonstrated that he had not lost his belief in the great promise and special character of the U.S. space program. Indeed, his remarks were perhaps the most optimistic and far-reaching of any he made during his eight years as president.