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T O P I C R E V I E WjohntosullivanHi all,I knew that in the 80s Senator Jake Garn and Rep Bill Nelson flew on the shuttle and later Senator John Glenn flew in space for the second time.Recently I saw that Pete Aldridge, Undersecretary of the Air Force was also scheduled to fly on 62-A before it was cancelled.What was the story behind these political flights? Was it a means to keep the funding flowing by offering rides to the paymasters?Or was there an official "Congressional Astronaut Corps"?I'm just interested in this space triva. Regards,JohnKen HavekotteJohn--Not so much for keeping the funding flowing, but it actually goes back to 1983 when a NASA task force, headed by administrator James Beggs, reported on the feasibility of carrying private citizens on the Space Shuttle. The report concluded that such qualified citizens could fly by the mid-1980s when seats would be available and persons could be flown without due risk to crew safety or to the mission at hand. One could even go back to the Space Act passed by Congress had authorized NASA to provide the "widest...dissemination of information concerning NASA activities..." Begg's task force concluded that flying observers would meet the intent of the law.Basically, there were three categories of Shuttle observer-flyers; engineers for private companies with cargo or major experiments aboard the Shuttle, foreign dignitaries interested in joint projects, and special communicators, such as teachers, journalists, and those politicians who had specific reasons to fly into space. One-time Shuttle passenger, an assigned payload specilaist for STS-61C, was Rep. Bill Nelson from my home state and district. When Nelson joined the U.S. Congress in 1978, he took a seat on the House Science and Technology Committee, which has jurisdiction over the nation's space program and budget requirements. Nelson reported that following the 1984 elections, NASA announced it was going to limit the number of congressional participants on the Shuttle to four. Those who would be considered were the two Republican chairmen of the Senate subcommittess that have control over the space program, and their counterparts in the House of Representatives--the two Democratic chairmen of the House subcommittees. Those in line first were Senator Jake Garn of Utah, an experienced pilot, and Rep. Bill Nelson, at that time he was only a member of the committee and not it's chairman. But the chairman had announced his plans to accept the leadership of another subcommittee, therefore, next in line was Nelson. In Sept. 1985 Nelson received an invitation to fly on the Shuttle by Beggs. At about the same time, because of President Reagan's interest in the program, America's first "true" civilian in space was being considered. Reagan himself had requested that a schoolteacher would be the first bona-fide civilian to fly. In comes an elementary school teacher from Concord, NH, Christa McAuliffe.WAWalshMike Mullane, as expressed in "Riding Rockets," is not particularly tolerant of the passenger specialists. He spends a bit of time shreding the idea. He does acknowledge that Sen. Garn was an accomplished pilot prior to his flight, with over 10,000 hours of flying time, but adds that Sen. Garn then set the benchmark for space sickness during his mission.
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