A giant leap for geriatric set Parody: 77-year-old John Glenn's frolicsome visit to outer space could open the door to another august crew.

November 07, 1998|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

The old man hasn't even been sick to his stomach -- he's been up there trading one-liners with Jay Leno, for heaven's sake.

At 77, John Glenn is flying flawlessly through the hoops and motions aboard the space shuttle Discovery, set to return today. If research warrants, NASA administrator Daniel Goldin has promised to send more seniors into space. "Famous people" are apparently lining up for space flight, he says. NASA didn't name names, but just imagine -- a shuttle mission featuring an entire crew of celebrity 77-year-olds.

Aboard a new shuttle -- the Decrepit -- the crew of brave men and women from the "Class of '21" would be assigned tasks geared to their specific skills -- and day jobs. Inspired by Glenn, Decrepit's crew of 77-year-olds would aspire to conduct "two or three" scientific experiments, perform a "Broadway-style" production, stage a boxing match, and win a Pulitzer Prize.

Introducing the crew of the Decrepit:

Betty Friedan

Birth date: 2-4-21.

Experience: Author of "The Feminine Mystique," the seminal book on the modern feminist movement

Flight rank: Commander and Pilot

Role: Commanding and piloting

Mission statement: "I am the commander and pilot. It's not commander 'gal' or pilot 'chick.' Now, all things being equal, I will request the male crew members lower the seat when they're done."

William Donald Schaefer

Birth date: 11-2-21

Experience: Comptroller-elect and former governor

Flight rank: Payload Specialist (D-Maryland)

Role: Will contemplate mooning Earth from 340 miles over Indianapolis. Official duties will include bringing professional football back to the space program.

Jesse Helms

Birth date: 10-18-21

Experience: U.S. senator

Flight rank: Payload Specialist (R-North Carolina)

Role: Led failed filibuster against NASA naming Schaefer to crew; unsuccessfully blocked Friedan's appointment as commander (Helms had lobbied for 77-year-old Nancy Reagan as shuttle commander).

Jake LaMotta

Birth date: 7-10-21

Experience: Former middleweight boxing champ, immortalized by Robert De Niro in "Raging Bull"

Flight rank: Athletic Director (AD-2)

Role: Organizing on-board boxing tournament and poetry contest.

Quote: $%#

@" (NASA translation: "Jake is honored to join six other great Americans on this historic shuttle flight.")

Jim McKay

Birth date: 9-24-21

Experience: Beloved sports broadcaster

Flight Rank: Color Specialist

Role: Will provide color, play-by-play, analysis and commentary for the shuttle's main event -- Friedan vs. Helms.

Ben Bradlee

Birth date: 8-26-21

Experience: Former editor of the Washington Post

Flight rank: Media Specialist

Role: Sports editor; editor of shuttle newsletter; on-board correspondent for "The Drudge Report."

Abe Vigoda

Birth date: 2-24-21

L Experience: Played gloomy sad-sack "Fish" on "Barney Miller"

Flight rank: Social Director

Responsibilities: Will choreograph and direct shuttle dinner theater production of "Rent." Will also, schedule permitting, conduct experiments on the effects of zero gravity on people named Abe.

Pub Date: 11/07/98

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