Samantha Reed Smith (June 29, 1972 – August 25, 1985) was an American schoolgirl and child actress from Manchester, Maine, who became famous in the Cold War-era United States and Soviet Union. In 1982, Smith wrote a letter to the newly appointed CPSU General Secretary Yuri Andropov, and received a personal reply which included a personal invitation to visit the Soviet Union, which she accepted.
Smith attracted extensive media attention in both countries as a "Goodwill Ambassador", and became known as "America's Youngest Ambassador" participating in peacemaking activities in Japan. She wrote a book and co-starred in the television series Lime Street, before her death at the age of 13 in the Bar Harbor Airlines Flight 1808 plane crash.
When Yuri Andropov succeeded Leonid Brezhnev as leader of the Soviet Union in November 1982, the mainstream Western newspapers and magazines ran numerous front page photographs and articles about him. Most coverage was negative and tended to a perception of a new threat to the stability of the Western world. Andropov had been the Soviet Ambassador to Hungary during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and began his tenure as Soviet leader by strengthening the powers of the KGB, and by suppressing dissidents. Andropov declared, "the struggle for human rights was a part of a wide-ranging imperialist plot to undermine the foundation of the Soviet state." Much international tension surrounded both Soviet and American efforts to develop weapons capable of being launched from satellites in orbit. Both governments had extensive research and development programs to develop such technology. However, both nations were coming under increasing pressure to disband the project. In America, president Ronald Reagan came under pressure from a lobby of U.S. scientists and arms experts, while in Russia the government issued a statement that read, "To prevent the militarization of space is one of the most urgent tasks facing mankind".