The Value Of Participation

From the early 1970s, while the Shuttle was being developed, members of the scientist-astronaut group were assigned to support roles which resulted in their early involvement in the design of workstations, crew equipment (including space suits and EVA tools), and Shuttle payloads or experiments. After Skylab and ASTP had flown, the whole of the Astronaut Office was reorganised to support the Shuttle effort during

1974-5. With the selection process for the first Shuttle era intake underway between 1976 and 1977, the Approach and Landing Tests of the Enterprise Shuttle, and the Orbital Flight Test programme fast approaching, crews for the first Spacelab missions needed to be assigned to begin work on integrating the payload with the ever-changing equipment of both the Shuttle and the CB.

From 1978, with the arrival of the thirty-five new astronauts, the scientist-astronaut group became known as Senior Scientist-Astronauts for a short time, before being designated as mission specialists available for assignment on forthcoming Shuttle crews. Several scientist-astronauts who had left the CB following the demise of the Apollo programme returned to resume training for a possible flight on Shuttle and Spacelab missions.

The early participation of the scientist-astronauts in the development of scientific payload operations from the Shuttle (especially the Spacelab series) clearly helped define the role of the mission specialist and focused both the criteria for selecting payload specialists and the crew responsibilities for each category. They were also influential in determining the operational constraints for experiments, timelines and hardware on Spacelab-type missions by conducting the Learjet, ASSESS and SMD simulations. The next phase was to assign astronauts to the first Spacelab mission, allowing further evaluations of CB participation in the preparations for that mission, its payload and flight plan. This would help to create a foundation upon which to build further Spacelab crew training and participation. It would also further define the role of the NASA mission specialists and non-NASA payload specialists on other missions.

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