While he's up there, perhaps Baturin can help solve Mir's acute financial crisis. He'll not be unaware of the need -- his own flight was postponed 10 days because the space agency couldn't pay its electricity bills. The entire Mir program, in fact, is in debt to the tune of $600 million. But for Baturin, whose earthbound job involved figuring out how to pay wages to the starving Russian military, that's a relatively minor cash-flow problem.
Russia's ahead in the space race again. The world's first space-bound bureaucrat -- Yuri Baturin, a former security adviser to Boris Yeltsin -- blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Thursday, heading for a two-week stay aboard Mir. NASA, of course, has sent lawmakers into orbit; Senator Jake Garn took a junket on the Space Shuttle back before the Challenger disaster, and John Glenn heads off in the fall. But never has America put a presidential aide in space. Can this one fly? "We can teach anyone to become a cosmonaut as long as he's not an idiot," said Mir's deputy flight director Viktor Blagov. So that's okay, then.