posted 11-27-2017 08:22 PM
John Youskauskas and I are pleased to announce that the manuscript of our book “Come Fly With Us: NASA’s Payload Specialist Program, 1983-86", has been sent to the University of Nebraska Press. This will be the latest volume in the highly successful Outward Odyssey series, and astronaut Don Thomas has kindly written a wonderful forward.
This fascinating account documents the earliest discussions by NASA leadership to fly non-professional astronauts onboard the space shuttle, and features the personal accounts of many of the payload specialists who were selected for the missions.
We were fortunate to have the cooperation of many NASA astronauts and payload specialists including Rick Chappell, Michael Lampton, Rodolfo Neri-Vela, Bob Cenker, and Loren Acton. The U.S. Air Force Manned Spaceflight Engineer program is detailed with the recollections of Gary Payton, Bill Pailes, Eric Sundberg, Brett Watterson, and Frank Casserino.
We were also faced with quite a daunting challenge, given the number of missions on which payload specialists were flown. Hence, we made the decision early on to focus on the missions of the 1980's through STS-51L. This first era of space shuttle missions featured European scientists, guests from France and Saudi Arabia, two Congressional observers, commercial engineers, and the highly publicized, yet ultimately ill-fated Teacher in Space program.
The MSE's operated in near-total secrecy for years as they labored to integrate their highly classified payloads into the orbiter that would launch them. An ambitious plan to launch space shuttles into polar orbit from the west coast would face daunting technical challenges, yet was nearly ready to fly when the Challenger disaster occurred.
This project has been a labor of love for both of us. We’ve tried to document an exciting aspect of the shuttle program while focusing on those 22 payload specialists who were fortunate enough to earn a seat on these early flights. We hope you’ll find it as engaging as it was to write.
We anticipate a late 2018 release, with much work still ahead before publication. We will keep everyone up to date as we get closer.