The "Columbia" space shuttle went off without a hitch. That was because it was on television, and everyone involved took extra pains to see that nothing went wrong. But in several years when we take space shuttle flights for granted, astronauts can expect the same problems that people who fly commercial airlines encounter.

"Are you in charge of luggage for the spaceship 'America'?"

"Yes sir."

"Well, I was on it, and my luggage didn't arrive. It had my electric razor and all my food-paste in it."

"These things happen. Could you show me on this card what bag it resembles the most?"

"This one here."

"I see. Well, let me call and check if Cape Canaveral knows anything about it . . . George, Harry here at Edwards Air Force Base. You haven't seen a brown three-suiter with green straps that was supposed to be on the 'America' flight today? Yeh, it was routed from the moon, via Atlanta. The number is 43216-E, like in Eastern Airlines. Take a look around will you? Hmmmm. You haven't? Thanks, I'll check with Atlanta."

"Did they locate it?"

"No sir. But I'm sending a telex to Atlanta to see if it might have been offloaded and put on our red-eye flight to Venus."

"You have to find it. I've got film in it of the Earth that has never been seen before."

"Now don't you excited. I'm doing the best I can."

"Why can't you people at NASA be more careful with people's luggage?"

"I only work in Lost and Found. I'm not responsible for the entire space program."

"I'm expected at the White House tomorrow for a dinner with the president of the United States. My tuxedo is in that bag."

"Just calm down. We'll find it. Atlanta should be back to me any moment."

"Why, when I take a flight to the moon, does my luggage have to go through Atlanta?"

"Everything has to go through Atlanta. It's an FAA regulation."

"I'm going to write to the head of NASA about this."

"You'll only get a form letter back."

"I'm not leaving until you find it."

"Here comes the reply from Atlanta. Hmmmm. There seems to have been a slight mixup. Your bag was apparently put on our super-shuttle flight to Jupiter."

"When will I get it?"

"Let's see, it will take a year to get there, and a year to get back. You should have it by June of 1987."

"I can't wait that long. I packed all my moon rocks in the suitcase."

"Now that was a silly thing to do. Why didn't you put them in your carry-on bag?"


"Please don't shout. You're making the other people who lost their luggage nervous. What hotel are you staying at? We'll send it by taxi as soon as it arrives."

"I don't know what hotel I'll be staying in."

"We'll be very happy to supply you with a toothbrush and shaving gear until the Jupiter Shuttle returns."

"I don't want a toothbrush. I want my luggage."

"Oh dear, I hate to see an astronaut cry, sir. Maybe Atlanta made a mistake and your bag was only sent to Mars. Then you'd get it back by next winter."

"What you're really trying to tell me is that you have no idea where my luggage is, and you just gave me this cock-and-bull story about it going to Venus, to get rid of me."

"To be honest, it could have gone to Venus or Biloxi, Miss. When our people tag the luggage, they always get the two places mixed up."