- 29,99 €
2020 Space Hipsters Prize for Best Book in Astronomy, Space Exploration, or Space History
Come Fly with Us is the story of an elite group of space travelers who flew as members of many space shuttle crews from pre-Challenger days to Columbia in 2003. Not part of the regular NASA astronaut corps, these professionals known as “payload specialists” came from a wide variety of backgrounds and were chosen for an equally wide variety of scientific, political, and national security reasons. Melvin Croft and John Youskauskas focus on this special fraternity of spacefarers and their individual reflections on living and working in space. Relatively unknown to the public and often flying only single missions, these payload specialists give the reader an unusual perspective on the experience of human spaceflight. The authors also bring to light NASA’s struggle to integrate the wide-ranging personalities and professions of these men and women into the professional astronaut ranks.
While Come Fly with Us relates the experiences of the payload specialists up to and including the Challenger tragedy, the authors also detail the later high-profile flights of a select few, including Barbara Morgan, John Glenn (who returned to space at the age of seventy-seven), and Ilan Ramon of Israel aboard Columbia on its final, fatal flight, STS-107.
In this well-researched, exhaustive history of a unique NASA program, geologist Melvin and jet pilot Youskauskas (Footprints in the Dust) show how the agency allowed "a new breed of space traveler" aboard select space shuttle flights, beginning in 1983. Known as payload specialists, these people did not receive full astronaut training, but did have to accomplish a specific mission, or "payload," to fly. The authors acknowledge the program was sometimes controversial, particularly after the fifth slot went to Jake Garn, a Utah senator "with no obvious reason to be on board." Nonetheless, the authors praise the program on the whole, highlighting the fresh perspectives it provided to shuttle crews most charmingly, when scientist Rodolfo Neri Vela, declaring that the first Mexican to go into space could not "leave Earth without his tortillas," inadvertently revealed the easy-to-handle, largely crumb-free bread as an ideal spaceflight provision, far preferable to "NASA's previous attempts to package sandwich-making ingredients." However, the program was halted for several years after payload specialists Greg Jarvis and Sharon Christa McAuliffe died in the 1986 Challenger disaster, and ended permanently after payload specialist Ilan Ramon died in the 2013 Columbia disaster. Rigidly chronological, the narrative lacks a unifying chapter-to-chapter arc, but space-travel fans will delight in myriad details and copious interviews.