At the time of the Challenger accident in 1986, Vice President Bush was the first person to express his grief and great sorrow to the families, speaking for himself, the President and the grieving nation. He personally extended his hand to the families with a simple gesture, giving June Scobee a note with his home phone number and a message “Call if you need us.” He was the first to support the Challenger families in their efforts to create Challenger Center for Space Science Education. In the years following the tragedy, President and Mrs. Bush continued to provide leadership and guidance. Recently, President Bush reaffirmed his commitment to Challenger Center by confirming his continued role as Honorary Chair of the organization’s Advisory Council.
In April 1995, the Challenger families gathered in Washington, D.C. with friends and President and Mrs. Bush. During this time, Challenger Center presented President and Mrs. Bush with the Challenger Center Presidential Award. The award was given to recognize the impact that their leadership had in fulfilling the dream of the family members to create a living legacy that would honor their loved ones and continue the crew’s educational mission. In appreciation of their continued support, the Challenger Center Presidential Award became the President George H. W. Bush Award. This top honor is presented to distinguished individuals who demonstrate compassion, encouragement and commitment to Challenger Center, just as President and Mrs. Bush have over the years.
Since its creation in 1995, this distinguished award, and the organization’s highest honor, has only been presented to four individuals: Former NASA educator astronaut Barbara Morgan (2007); Former NASA astronaut William Readdy (2011), Former NASA astronaut Dr. Kathryn Sullivan (2012)Senator Barbara Mikulski (2013).