The first member of Congress set to go into space while in office got a good-natured send-off today from his Senate colleagues, staff and fellow Utahans.
One unidentified senator wrote to the balding Sen. Jake Garn (R-Utah): "If you find that hair grows in zero-G gravity , please see if you can get me on a future flight."
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) remarked that the trip "will give an expanded meaning to the function of congressional oversight."
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), a fellow member of the Banking Committee, volunteered: "Please be assured I will be happy to chair the Banking Committee in your absence. That threat alone should contribute to a short and successful flight."
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah's junior Republican senator, and David Monson, one of the state's three members of the House, are here, as are most members of Garn's Senate staff. Outside one of their motel rooms hangs a banner that reads: "Garn Launch Control."
The senior senator from Utah is chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the National Aeronautics and Space Administration budget. But if some astronauts awaiting their first flight are upset by Garn's pulling rank, few NASA officials complain.
Garn also will become the first Mormon in space, beating Don Lind -- an astronaut since 1966 -- by one flight.
Garn's duties on the flight are vague. He's assigned the role of mission photographer and, by his description, chief mission housekeeper. "I'll clean up the deck, put away helmets and try to be as much help as possible," he said. "I cook and do windows."
Garn, 52, also will be wired for space medicine experiments. Electrodes will be fastened to his head, chest and stomach. He'll swab his throat for saliva specimens and tape-record his feelings if he succumbs to space sickness.