Authors Preface

This book is the result of an email discussion between the two authors about five years ago, exploring the possibility of a cooperative project. Both authors had recently completed solo projects and discovered a common interest in both the Skylab missions and the two groups of scientist-astronauts that were chosen in the 1960s for the Apollo Applications Program. The role of the non-pilot astronaut within NASA had changed during the transition from Apollo to the Shuttle and the designation "Mission Specialist" rather than "Scientist-Astronaut" was more than just a change of title.

Space Shuttle flights had shown that a broad knowledge base was advantageous for flying multiple missions, and that pure "science" research activities were the primary role of the payload specialist, the "part-time" astronaut who was selected for a specific mission or investigation, rather than as a career astronaut. During the 1980s and 1990s, the role of the mission specialist became one of team leader on dedicated scientific research missions, evolving into what became known as the pay-load commander. After the experiences of American astronauts on Mir, and with the introduction of the International Space Station (ISS) featuring further long duration residencies by American astronauts, the need to focus science research objectives and operations became clear.

In 2002, with ISS capable of supporting a long duration resident crew without a docked Shuttle, and with a broad range of scientific experiments and support hardware on the Destiny module, ISS-5 NASA flight engineer Peggy Whitson was designated the first NASA ISS science officer. This role was not the same as the payload commander, mission specialist, or scientist-astronaut before it, but like them, built upon the experiences of these earlier roles to become a focal point for US science on the station, while still balancing operational and habitation issues. The loss of Columbia in early 2003 suspended the expansion of science operations until 2006 at the earliest, but even with a two-person caretaker resident crew, US astronauts took on the dual role of either ISS commander or flight engineer, along with that of NASA

science officer. From 2006, it is hoped that the role will be changed again (depending upon the next Shuttle flight), once a full, three-person resident crew is restored to the station. Only then will the lost dreams of the scientist-astronauts selected four decades before be fully realised, as preparations for a return to the Moon and out to Mars are developed and, hopefully, scientist-astronaut participation on the lunar and Martian surfaces becomes a reality.

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