Finishing the First Term
By the time the national space strategy, which was initiated by SIG (Space) in late 1982, reached Ronald Reagan’s desk for his approval in August 1984, it was primarily an accounting of the space decisions made during first Reagan term. These decisions, including approval of going ahead with a multiyear and multibillion dollar space station program, expanded international cooperation in the space station and other National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) projects, and greatly increased emphasis on facilitating private sector involvement in commercially motivated space activities, did add up to a more ambitious space program than had been in place when Reagan had come to the White House in January 1981. But that program would be conducted employing the same share of the Federal budget as had been the case when Reagan took office. Most Reagan space initiatives did not require, at least in the short term, an increase in the space budget, and there had been some budget reductions to offset new programs. Ronald Reagan “liked” civilian space, but he was apparently not willing to increase the NASA budget by anything more than a token amount to finance major new space initiatives. As Reagan was reelected in November 1984, an ambitious space agenda was being proposed for the second Reagan term. For a variety of reasons, most of all the tragic 1986 space shuttle Challenger accident that was a major setback for the U.S. program, this ambitious agenda was not actively pursued. The accomplishments during Ronald Reagan’s first term would thus end up being the high point in establishing his space legacy.