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President Asks NASA Report in 30 Days : Tells Agency to Reform Management, Vows to Continue Program

June 14, 1986|RUDY ABRAMSON | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Reagan, saying the United States must press on with its space program, told the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Friday to carry out management reforms recommended after a blue-ribbon panel's investigation of the Challenger space shuttle accident.

A week after receiving the 256-page final report, the President summoned NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher to the White House for a discussion of the presidential commission's findings and told him to submit a report in 30 days detailing how the commission's recommendations will be carried out.

'As Soon as Possible'

Reagan later released a letter formally directing the space agency "to implement its recommendations as soon as possible."

There was no immediate comment from NASA officials on the directive, but in recent days they had already indicated that they agreed with the major recommendations.

In its report made public Monday, the presidential commission called not only for redesign of the rocket booster that triggered the catastrophe but also an overhaul of NASA management from its field centers to its Washington headquarters.

Reagan indicated Friday that he specifically intends for the civilian space agency to comply with recommendations relating to the space program's management.

'Will Be Crucial'

"The procedural and organizational changes suggested in the report," he said in a formal letter to Fletcher, "will be essential to resuming effective and efficient space transportation system operations and will be crucial in restoring U.S. space launch activities to full operational status."

Among other things, the report on the accident investigation called for a new safety office, for greater authority in the hands of the shuttle program manager and for steps to improve communications between NASA headquarters and the agency's powerful field centers.

Although NASA had already begun steps to comply with obvious recommendations such as the redesign of the failed solid rocket booster, space officials have carefully avoided commitment to carry out expensive and controversial recommendations, such as vertical testing of the redesigned rocket.

In his letter telling NASA that he expects compliance with the commission's call for procedural and organizational reforms, Reagan also reiterated that "we are determined to press on in our space programs."

Favors New Orbiter

When answering a reporter's question at his press conference Wednesday, Reagan indicated that he favors building a new orbiter to replace the Challenger. Afterward, however, Administration sources said the thorny questions of whether to recommend a replacement, how to finance it and what the balance should be between the shuttle and expendable launch vehicles in the future space program are still being debated.

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