The Reagan Space Legacy
Ronald Reagan’s enthusiasm for the space program as a frontier activity was a genuine part of his personality and of his ability to lead. However, that enthusiasm was held in check both by Reagan’s concern for government fiscal responsibility and by his “bottom up” decision-making approach, which often gave space skeptics equal voice with fellow enthusiasts in preparing issues for presidential decision. This reality led to a persistent gap between Reagan’s space-related rhetoric and the actual policies and programs of his administration. The Reagan space legacy, then, is a combination of memorable rhetoric and largely pragmatic practice. The Reagan administration was a period during which the space shuttle went from the centerpiece of access to space to an extremely capable system carrying out cutting edge NASA missions and serving to help construct a permanent outpost in orbit; during which the program to develop that outpost was begun; during which the foundational policies to support private sector space activities were first developed; and during which lasting international space partnerships were forged.