The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 stipulates that NASA must "disseminate widely, in a practicable and appropriate manner, information concerning its activities and their results." The 1982 Nogle Commission concluded that having civilians on the Space Shuttle who were not part of the NASA Astronaut Corps was part of "the purpose of enhancing public understanding of spaceflight." Payload specialists typically fly for a single, specific mission. Selected outside of NASA's standard Mission Specialist selection process, they are exempt from certain NASA requirements, such as color blindness. Roger Crouch and Wolfe Marvold are examples of people who flew in space without meeting NASA's physical requirements. :63 NASA's director of crew training, Jim Bilodeau, said in April 1981, "Everyone but the walking wounded will be able to get on board." Payload specialists didn't have to be U.S. citizens, but they had to be approved by NASA and undergo rigorous but brief training. In contrast, space shuttle mission specialists were first selected as NASA astronauts and then assigned to missions. Payload specialists in early missions were technical experts who would participate in specific payloads such as commercial and scientific satellites. For missions with spacelabs and other scientific components, the payload expert was a scientist with specific experimental expertise. The term was also applied to representatives of partner nations (such as Saudi Arabia and Mexico), parliamentarians, and the Space Teachers Program who were given the opportunity to make the first Space Shuttle flight. He was offered a seat by Undersecretary of the Air Force, Edward C. Aldridge, Jr., to improve relations between NASA and the United States Air Force. NASA also hoped to fly "citizen astronauts," ordinary Americans who could explain space to others. In August 1984, President Ronald Reagan announced the first such program, the Space Teacher Project. NASA hoped that reporters (space journalists), entertainers, and creative types would later fly. NASA classified full-time international astronauts as payload specialists unless they were trained by a NASA mission specialist, and some were. :63 Bilodeau puts in hundreds of hours of training over the four or five weeks he estimated a payload specialist would undergo. An international or scientific payload specialist was typically trained alongside the primary payload specialist and was assigned a backup to take his place in the event of illness or other failure. Both primary and backup payload specialists underwent mission-specific and general training. Michael Rampton estimates that about 20% of his training was generic, including fire school, capsule correspondent duties, personal exit air packs and space toilet use. He described Spacelab 1 training as "going back to grad school, but majoring in everything." The first mission tested Spacelab's versatility in "medicine, metallurgy, remote sensing, astronomy, microgravity, and more." : 59–60 Payload specialists ran experiments and participated in experiments that required human subjects. Charles D. Walker recalled that Senator Jake Gahan was "the obvious subject" of STS-51-D's Rhea Seddon echocardiogram. "We didn't really have much of a choice as to whether or not to be a subject. 'You're a payload expert. You're going to be a subject.'" Participated in an unrelated experiment at the University of Alabama at the University of Birmingham to help build a home-made repair tool for mission-launched satellites. The payload expert flew from 1983 (STS-9) to 2003 (STS-107). The last payload specialist to fly was Ilan Ramon, Israel's first astronaut, who died along with the rest of the crew in the Columbia crash on mission STS-107.
= Payload specialists who later trained as mission specialists =
All were international astronauts. Marc Garneau – Mission Specialist for STS-77, STS-97 Mamoru Mohri – Mission Specialist for STS-99 Stephen McLean – Mission Specialist on STS-115 Hans Schlegel – Mission Specialist for STS-122 Umberto Guidoni – STS-100 Mission Specialist Robert Thirsk – completed training and flew a Soyuz TMA-15 Bjarni Tryggvasson – completed training and retired in June 2008 without flying again
List of manned spaceflights List of space shuttle missions List of Space Shuttle Crew Members
Biography of payload specialist on NASA website.
Definition & Meaning
- the front part of a guided missile or rocket or torpedo that carries the nuclear or explosive charge or the chemical or biological agents goods carried by a large vehicle
- an expert who is devoted to one occupation or branch of learning practices one branch of medicine