Remote cameras have been barred from NASA property for today's scheduled launch from Cape Canaveral of a Delta rocket because photographers have refused to sign an agreement that the space agency can use their film first in case of a "contingency" or emergency.
"We won't sign this, and they won't let us in," Maxwell McCrohon, editor in chief of United Press International, said yesterday. McCrohon said UPI wants to develop film and make it available to the wire service's customers before handing it over to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
"I don't think this is unreasonable," he said. "We have said that we would be finished with the film within an hour and would cheerfully give it to them."
McCrohon said that, when NASA obtained film from unmanned cameras near the cape after the Challenger shuttle explosion Jan. 28, the agency lost black-and-white film from eight UPI cameras in remote locations. Duplicates of the impounded film were not made available for five days, and the originals were returned 10 weeks later.
Shirley Green, director of public affairs for NASA, said that, although still cameras will not be stationed on NASA property for the Delta launch, "we are going to see if we can find a way to accommodate their needs" in the future.
The stalemate is the latest disagreement between news organizations and NASA since the Challenger accident. At that time, The New York Times was the only news organization with remote still cameras on NASA property that refused to hand over the film. NASA later received the film.
Other organizations refusing to sign are the Associated Press, The Washington Post and The New York Times.