World leaders express shock and sorrow over Challenger explosion

By DANIEL J. SILVA, United Press International

World leaders expressed shock and sorrow over the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger Tuesday, and video tape of the fiery blast was broadcast on television networks around the globe. Newspapers Wednesday threw out domestic news to banner the disaster.

'Space Horror,' the Sydney Daily Mirror bannered in a black headline spread across the page. The Daily Mail in Britain headlined: 'Spaceship disaster -- Teacher dies living the American dream' over a half-page picture of civilian victim Christa McAuliffe.


'This is a black hour for manned space flight,' West German's Minister of Research and Technology Heinz Riesenhuber said. Japan said it might postpone its 1988 manned space program pending an investigation by U.S. space officials.

In Moscow, Soviet television showed the explosion on its nightly news and Polish television used the disaster to attack the U.S. 'Star Wars' program for a space-based nuclear defense.


There was no reaction from the Kremlin, but the Soviet ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Safronchuk, relayed his mission's 'deep sorrow' and 'deepest sympathy.' At least four Soviet cosmonauts are known to have been killed in spaceflight disasters since the history of the Soviet program.

Irish Prime Minister Garret Fitzgerald and President Patrick Hillery sent telegrams to President Reagan expressing condolences over the explosion of the shuttle, which had a crew of seven.

'The Irish people and government share the profound shock and sadness of the American people at the tragic accident to the space shuttle Challenger and the loss of its crew,' Fitzgerald said.

Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney said he asked U.S. Ambassador Thomas Niles to convey Canada's 'great grief at the tragedy that has just struck the United States, a terrible loss in remarkably tragic circumstances.'

Calling the shuttle crew 'truly brave people,' Mulroney said in Ottawa the tragedy would not stop Canada from taking part in the 'great adventure' of the U.S. space program. The Canadian Parliament rose for a moment of silence.

In Paris, the state-run television network interrupted national broadcasts for about 10 minutes to show videotape of the explosion.

French President Francois Mitterrand, in a telegram to Reagan, said, 'The French people felt, at the announcement of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, a profound emotion and sincere compassion for the astronauts aboard.'


Patrick Baudry, the French astronaut who traveled to space aboard the shuttle Discovery in June, said. 'I think the sacrifice of my friends who were on board today will not be for nothing. There have been other accidents before. They have all served some purpose.'

Arianespace, the private European company that competes with the space shuttle for commercial satellite launching contracts, said the company was 'in profound sympathy with NASA in this event.'

'Arianespace knows well the extraordinary capacity of Americans to overcome their setbacks, and we remain confident for the future of space travel,' the company said in a statement issued in Paris.

British,Italian and Portuguese networks also interupted programming to broadcast news of shuttle tragedy.

In Geneva, shocked Swiss citizens came to Western news bureaus for information on the Challenger explosion. Among them were members of the U.S. team to the American-Soviet arms negotiations taking place in Geneva.

In Pretoria, South Africa, President Pieter Botha, said, 'All South Africans were stunned by the tragic news of the explosion. The free world has followed the United States space program with pride.'

The 21-nation European Parliament held a moment of silence for the seven crewmen in Strasbourg, France after being told of the disaster by Rep. Butler Derrick, D-S.C., who was in Strasbourg to monitor the session.


Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi telephoned Reagan and expressed 'his deepest condolences and sympathies,' the Press Trust of India news agency said.

King Hussein of Jordan sent a cable to Reagan asking the president to convey Jordan's sorrow to the families of the seven people aboard Challenger.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone said the explosion was 'regrettable' and that Japan's manned space project scheduled for 1988 may be postponed pending investigations by U.S. authorities.

The disaster shocked Japan's government-financed National Space Development Agency, which has chosen its first astronaut and two substitute fliers for its manned space project.

'What we have been concerned about has happened,' said Hiroyuki Osawa, president of the agency. '(The accident) apparently was a shock to our astronauts.'

Belgian Foreign Minister Leo Tindemans said he hoped the accident 'will not prevent the United States and man to pursue the exploration of space to the benefit of mankind.'

First editions of mass-circulation national British newspapers Wednesday threw out domestic items to devote most of their front pages to stories and huge pictures depicting the tragedy. It lay alongside a photograph of the octupus-like smoke trails left by explosion.

The Sydney Sun ran a four-page spread with graphic newspictures of the disaster under the banner headline 'Space Shuttle Blows Apart.'


At the United Nations, Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar expressed his 'profound sadness' to Reagan.

'Truly the entire world will grieve this tragic loss of life incurred in the advancement of the frontiers of human knowledge,' Perez de Cuellar said.

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