An article in yesterday's Federal Report incorrectly stated that Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) and Rep. Harold L. Volkmer (D-Mo.) had told NASA they would like to participate in a space shuttle mission. The two have told NASA that they are not interested in such a trip. According to NASA officials, subcommittee staff members had said on behalf of Gorton and Volkmer that they would be interested.
When Sen. Jake Garn (R-Utah) accepted NASA's invitation to take a ride on the space shuttle, there was widespread concern that the space agency would be swamped with requests from both sides of Capitol Hill to make the ultimate congressional junket.
Perhaps "swamped" isn't the right word, but those concerns have turned out to be legitimate. In the five weeks since NASA extended the invitation to Garn, no fewer than seven other members of Congress have said they'd like to go for a ride, too.
Garn was invited, NASA says, because he is chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA's budget. Now the chairmen of the three other congressional subcommittees that deal with NASA also want invitations. They are Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee on science, technology and space; Rep. Edward P. Boland (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on HUD and independent agencies, and Rep. Harold Volkmer (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Science and Technology subcommittee on space science and applications.
But wait, that's not all. Reps. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), (whose district includes Cape Canaveral), Eldon Rudd (R-Ariz.), Beverly B. Byron (D-Md.) and Larry Hopkins (R-Ky.) also have submitted formal requests to NASA for a shuttle seat.
It's not clear yet when Garn will get to make his trip. He had told NASA he would like to go on the Feb. 12 flight, when the Senate will be in recess, but that's out of the question because he wouldn't be able to complete his flight training in time. Garn also has said he would prefer not to go in 1986, when he will be up for reelection, because he doesn't want to appear to be using the flight for political purposes.
"We are still working the shuttle cargo manifest for 1985, and until that's completed we won't have any idea about reserving a seat for Sen. Garn," said Jack Murphy, NASA's associate administrator for legislative affairs. "A lot of the flights for 1985 require crews of six, seven and even eight people, and it would not be wise to include Sen. Garn on a flight like that where the crews are so large."
Even 1986 may pose a problem for the agency because that's when NASA plans to fly its most important scientific missions. That year shuttles are scheduled to launch a German-American spacecraft called the Ulysses, which will orbit the north and south poles of the sun, a Galileo spacecraft that will study Jupiter, and the space telescope.
There is an alternative, said one NASA official who asked not to be identified. "Put him Garn on a Pentagon flight where he'd get the chance to fly but wouldn't get the chance to talk to Earth," he said. "After all, Sen. Garn is probably cleared for top secret; he is a member of the Air Force reserves and an ex-Navy aviator. He'd fit right in on any one of the Pentagon's ghost-ship missions that start in October of 1985." Related story, Page A8.
Meanwhile, Garn is going through the motions of getting ready for a space flight. On his way back to Washington from Utah today, he is to stop in Houston for a visit with Johnson Space Center Director Gerald Griffin and a "walk-through" of the astronaut training facilities. Garn must complete at least 120 hours of astronaut training before he will be considered qualified for flight.