Temporary duty in Washington

In February 1988, Parker was assigned a temporary duty at the Office of Space Flight at NASA HQ in Washington DC. He was to serve as Director of the Space Flight/ Space Station Integration Office, which had been established in 1987 to develop the integration of the fledgling space station programme into the Space Transportation System (Shuttle). He replaced the former director, E. William Land, who had retired in January 1988. "In those days, Space Station was one major code [directorate] and Manned Space Flight was another,'' Parker recalled, "so I was the Manned Space Flight interface with someone else who was in Space Station. I did that for a year.'' In early June 1989, he returned to JSC to resume training for STS-35 (then planned for a launch in the spring of 1990).18

In the 1986 manifest, Astro-1 was the next mission due to fly after STS 51-L. When the new manifest was issued, the priority was to reconfirm the Shuttle design and verify the changes incorporated into the programme after the loss of the Challenger. In addition, several classified DoD missions had to be launched as soon as possible, two much-delayed Tracking and Data Relay Satellite payloads had to be deployed (as did the Magellan, Galileo and Ulysses space probes and the Hubble Telescope) and the Long-Duration Exposure Facility that had been deployed in 1984 and should have been retrieved in 1985 had to be recovered. This meant that the "science" missions were delayed and Astro-1 gradually slipped into 1990, some eighteen months after the resumption of flights.

On 30 November 1988, NASA announced that the Astro-1 crew and mission -unfortunately no longer able to observe Halley's Comet - would fly as STS-35 under the command of Vance Brand (he had replaced McBride, who had retired from NASA), with pilot Guy Gardner replacing Dick Richards (who had been reassigned to another crew) and MS Mike Lounge replacing Dave Leestma (who was in training for STS-28).

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