Featured image: President George H.W. Bush speaks at the National Air and Space Museum on the 20th anniversary of Apollo 11 in July 1989, announcing his proposed Space Exploration Initiative. Credit: NASA
President George H.W. Bush was born on June 12, 1924. He would go on to make a significant impact on U.S. space policy during his one-term presidency. Bush set goals for a human return to the moon and for later human missions to Mars.
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The Bush presidency came at a critical moment of global change; He led the country during the collapse of the Soviet Union and is also remembered in space for his proposed Space Exploration Initiative (SEI), which he announced in 1989 on the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Perhaps most important, Bush laid the foundation of what would later become his son’s (President George W. Bush) Vision for Space Exploration. That, in turn, would carry on through the Obama administration culminating in the Space Policy Directive 1, signed by President Trump in 2017.
The recent launch to the International Space Station of U.S. astronauts onboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon on May 30, was the culmination of decades of planning and research that first began under George H.W. Bush’s leadership.
Vice Presidential Years
Serving as vice president to President Ronald Reagan, Bush was heavily involved with NASA throughout the 1980s. According to Wendy Whitman Cobb, Associate Professor of Political Science at Cameron University:
“In a 1985 White House speech, Bush announced that teacher Christa McAuliffe would fly aboard the ill-fated Challenger. In the wake of the disaster, Reagan dispatched Bush to meet with the families at Kennedy Space Center given his ties to the mission. After a private meeting with the families, Bush addressed NASA employees at Kennedy and pledged the space program would go forward, a promise he kept as president.”
Also, as vice president, Bush often enjoyed speaking with astronauts mid-flight and as president, he gave Americans a reason to continue space exploration after the end of the Cold War.
“President George H.W. Bush was not only a passionate space enthusiast, he was a visionary who outlined the keys to the next great step in American space exploration,” said Mark Albrecht, who was executive secretary of the National Space Council during the Bush administration.
Bush died at the age of 94 on November 30, 2018. In a statement released at the time of his death, NASA’s chief Jim Bridenstine said, “NASA and the nation mourn the passing of President George Herbert Walker Bush, a leader who was a passionate advocate for space exploration.”