KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — NASA is scrambling to get a ballot up to the Russian space station for U.S. astronaut John Blaha, who won't be back on the planet until after Inauguration Day.
The 54-year-old Texan, who arrived at Mir on Sept. 18, missed the opportunity to register for an absentee ballot for the presidential election because he was training in Russia, said NASA spokesman Rob Navias.
NASA is working with local, state and federal voting officials in an attempt to e-mail a ballot to Blaha from Texas by way of Moscow. His response would come back the same way and would be encrypted to ensure a secret ballot.
But it's still up in the air as to whether everything can be worked out by Nov. 5, said Phyllis Taylor, director of federal voting assistance.
"I don't think I'll be able to vote, but I'll tell you this . . . President Clinton has done a great job in the past four years," Blaha said Thursday in a space-to-ground news conference. "I didn't vote for him four years ago, but I think he's done a great job and I'm all for him.
"I also think Bob Dole did a great job in the U.S. Senate. So both men are doing very well, and I hope we'll keep the spirit of everybody together and work to try and improve America."
Blaha, the replacement on Mir for record-setting astronaut Shannon Lucid, is supposed to return to Earth in late January on space shuttle Atlantis.
Lucid, meanwhile, told reporters Thursday that she has readjusted well to gravity after her record six-month mission and is glad to be back in the office. She has had her fill of junk food; she gorged on the stuff during her first week or so back.
Despite such earthly indulgences, Lucid misses some aspects of space station life. For one thing, she had a half-second commute in orbit.
"I didn't have to worry about doing laundry. I didn't have to worry about going to the store to get groceries," said the 53-year-old Lucid. "And, actually, a friend called me up last night and she said, 'You know, I was just thinking about your six months up there on Mir.' She said, 'You didn't have to pay a single bill, did you?'
"So there were a lot of pluses."