Applicants for Journalist-In-Space Program Still Interested
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ The Journalist-in-Space program will be ″at least delayed″ because of Tuesday’s shuttle explosion that killed six astronauts and the first citizen in space - schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, the program manager said.
Alan Ladwig, who heads NASA’s Space Flight Partipation Program, said in a telephone interview from Washington that ″the magnitude of today’s tragedy makes it really tough″ to say what will happen next.
Asked whether the journalist project would go forward as planned, Ladwig said: ″We just don’t have any idea today. It’s at least delayed.″
By early evening, four applicants to be the first journalist in space had called the project office at the University of South Carolina.
″They all said the same thing,″ said program spokesman Jack Bass. ″They wanted us to know they wanted their names to remain in the applicant pool and they hoped the program would continue.″
Bass read a two-sentence statement from Robert L. Hoskins, president of the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication, expressing condolences to the families of those killed Tuesday.
NASA’s Space Flight Participation Project is designed to give private citizens a chance to experience space travel.
The journalist project was to be the second phase of a citizen-in-space program, Bass said. The first participant was McAuliffe, who taught social studies and law at Concord High School in New Hampshire
The journalist is scheduled to be on a shuttle launch in late September. Project officials say they have received applications from 1,703 journalists hoping to be the first reporter in space.
Several reporters watched Tuesday’s launch while covering the Voyager mission from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
One of them, Murray Dubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Los Angeles bureau, who said he has applied to be in the program, said, ″This is going to cause me to rethink my desire to go into space.″
However, New York Times science reporter John Noble Wilford said: ″Anyone who applied was aware there were risks involved and would take that into account and live with it. This doesn’t affect my desire to fly in space.″
The journalist applications have been divided into five regions and sent to 20 journalism schools, four in each region. Each school panel was to pick five journalists by late February or early March.
From that pool, eight journalists will be selected from each region.
Hoskins said earlier that all applicants will be evaluated on the basis of professionalism and the ability to communicate clearly to mass audiences.
He said each journalism school panel would look at work samples, the two essays from the application and letters of recommendation. The finalist and a backup were to be named April 17.