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President insists space program go forward, delays State of Union address

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Sharing a nation's shock over the explosion of the Challenger, President Reagan has voiced his deep sorrow to the families of those who were aboard the space shuttle. But he also stressed the importance of going forward with space exploration. Because of the tragic event yesterday, the President after consulting with leaders of Congress postponed his State of the Union address until next Tuesday. He also sent Vice-President George Bush to Cape Canaveral's Kennedy Space Center to convey his concern for the families of those aboard the space shuttle.

Mr. Reagan instructed acting NASA director Bill Graham to fly to Cape Canaveral with the Vice President to begin probing the cause of the explosion and and then to proceed with the space program. ``These people were dedicated to the exploration of space,'' the President stated. ``We could do no more to honor them, these courageous Americans, than to go forward with the program.''

The President was having an Oval Office meeting with top aides when he learned that the shuttle had blown up. He stood in ``stunned silence'' as he watched a televised replay of the disaster, said White House spokesman Larry Speakes.

``It's a terrible thing,'' Mr. Reagan told TV reporters. ``I just can't get out of my mind her husband, her chidren, as well as the families of the others on board.''

Asked if he felt special remorse because of his decision to send a teacher into space, Mr. Reagan replied that all those aboard the Challenger were citizens. ``I don't think there's anybody who's been on there who's not a volunteer,'' he commented. ``They were all aware of the dangers and risks.''

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