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Deaver Tried To Remove Cola From Space Shuttle, Says Book

February 4, 1987

SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) _ Reagan administration officials complained about an interview Christa McAuliffe gave praising the Kennedys, and she was told to censor her comments, according to a book about the space shuttle tragedy in which she died.

After McAuliffe was named the first citizen in space, she said in a newspaper interview that she admired President Kennedy and the Kennedy family, writes Joseph J. Trento in ″Prescription for Disaster.″

″That made the White House upset,″ former NASA administrator James Beggs is quoted as saying. Michael Deaver, then a White House advisor, called and ″told me to tell her not to talk,″ said Beggs, who stepped down as administrator before Challenger exploded on Jan. 28, 1986, killing McAuliffe, a Concord, N.H., school teacher, and six other people.

″I told the folks down at the astronaut office to say, ’Look, Christa, we can’t tell you not to talk to the press ... but recognize the fact that you are in a very sensitive position politically and try not to be partisan.″

In later interviews, said Beggs, ″she observed that very carefully.″

In his book, Trento, an investigative reporter for Cable News Network who has covered the space program for 15 years, traces the political and technical history of the space program.

Trento also quotes Beggs on the shuttle ″cola wars″ that were widely publicized.

After Deaver left the White House in May 1985 to become a lobbyist, one of his clients was the Coca-Cola Co. Beggs said Deaver complained vigorously to him when both Coke and Pepsi Cola were permitted to be tested aboard the shuttle in 1985.

″He wanted me to throw the competition off the flight,″ Beggs is quoted as saying. ″I said ‘No.’ He was kind of nasty about it. He bothered me on the phone several times. ... He was awfully upset and he was mad. ... And I said, ’Mike, I can’t do anything.″

Coca-Cola had developed a special can for use in weightlessness. Beggs said Pepsi insisted its beverage be included on the mission. Both were sampled in space, said Beggs, and ″tasted terrible. Warm and terrible. And it was a bloody failure.″

″Prescription for Disaster″ is published by Crown Publishers Inc. of New York.

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