WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 -- President Clinton (Thursday) telephoned astronaut Shannon Lucid to tell her 'we're all so proud of you' after her long adventure in space finally ended. He made a tentative appointment to personally congratulate her in Houston Friday on a campaign swing.
'A few years ago, people were talking about space being the next battleground. We are so far from that now that I hope it's never talked about again,' said Culbertson. 'Right now space is the place that we are doing the most significant, visible and I think successful cooperation between Russia and the United States. The rest of the international community is looking forward to participating and I think we should keep going in that direction and continue to build on it. We have the foundation in place to do that on both a relationship basis and a technical basis.' The next chapter in U.S.-Russian space relations will be written by astronaut John Blaha, a 54-year-old shuttle commander, retired Air Force colonel and Vietnam veteran, who replaced Lucid on Mir. Blaha, who is married with three grown children, and a grandson, is scheduled to stay on Mir until mid-January. Lucid, likewise, had signed up for a 4 1/2- month flight, but shuttle equipment problems delayed her homecoming six weeks. For the next few weeks, NASA will keep Lucid's schedule light. 'She will certainly have the opportunity to take a vacation if she likes before she has to start making the rounds.
A lot of that will be up to her,' said Culbertson. As far as Lucid is concerned, she said during flight she is just looking forward to sitting down in a comfortable chair and talking with her family. 'I don't think of myself as a star,' she said. 'I'm a worker. I just like to work.' Atlantis' flight was the 79th for the shuttle program and the sixth of seven planned for this year. Shuttle Columbia is set for launch next on a science research flight, with liftoff targeted for Nov. 8.