Posted: Thursday, October 05, 2000

Mask's space trip put off until later

Juneau - The Tlingit bear mask scheduled to go aloft on the Space Shuttle Discovery has been bumped.

"I was rather disappointed, but NASA has the priority of safety and supplies for the mission and that takes precedence," said Ross Soboleff, vice president of corporate communications for the Juneau-based Native corporation.

"It's not off; it's just going to be on a later flight," he said today.

Discovery's scheduled liftoff today was cancelled, but when it's launched later, there will be no room for the mask.

A year and a half ago, Sealaska Corp. shareholder and Boeing employee Richard Cogo suggested having a piece of Native American art join the space program. Soboleff, vice president of corporate communications for the Juneau-based Native corporation, coordinated the effort with both Boeing and NASA.

As of last week, everything was set to have the wooden mask ride the shuttle to a berth on the International Space Station, Soboleff said.

However, other priorities intervened at the last minute. Each payload is about the size of a school bus, so there is a lot of competition for what goes up, he said.

There are about 40 launches involved with the International Space Station, so there are many more chances for sending the mask into the heavens. In fact, a January launch has been mentioned as a possibility, he said.

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