Come Fly with Us


Come Fly with Us

NASA's Payload Specialist Program

Melvin Croft and John Youskauskas

Foreword by Don Thomas

Outward Odyssey: A People's History of Spaceflight Series

456 pages
47 photographs, appendix, index


February 2019


$46.95 Add to Cart

May 2024


$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

February 2019


$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

February 2019


$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Winner of the 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.  


Author Bio

Melvin Croft has more than forty years of experience as a geologist and is a longtime supporter of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. John Youskauskas is a professional pilot with more than thirty years of aviation experience in flight operations, aviation safety, and maintenance. Both authors contributed to Footprints in the Dust: The Epic Voyages of Apollo, 1969–1975 (Nebraska, 2010). Don Thomas is a former NASA mission specialist and the author of Orbit of Discovery: The All-Ohio Space Shuttle Mission.


"Well-researched. . . . Space-travel fans will delight in myriad details and copious interviews."—Publishers Weekly

"An interesting perspective and stands as a welcome addition to space-shuttle history."—Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

“I’m surprised that nobody has written a book about the payload specialist program before now. This program sponsored some outstanding on-orbit scientific research that was conducted by a truly diverse and dedicated group of extraordinary people. This is a great story of the shuttle era, extremely well researched and told.”—Col. Jerry L. Ross, USAF (Ret.), NASA astronaut and author of Spacewalker

“No history of the space shuttle program could ever be considered complete without exploring the many accomplishments of the payload specialists. This consistently fascinating book is packed from start to finish with previously untold and sometimes controversial stories that delve into an intriguing aspect of life and work aboard America’s space shuttles. The authors have done a magnificent job.”—Rick Houston, space historian and coauthor of Go, Flight!: The Unsung Heroes of Mission Control, 1965–1992

“Before being selected as a payload specialist, I had already worked with NASA’s astronauts, instructing them on ways to interpret different oceanographic features and patterns from orbit. I then flew my own journey of discovery with the crew of STS-41G. This wonderful book brought back so many memories of an amazing time, the beauty of our planet as seen from orbit, and some truly unforgettable people.”—Paul D. Scully-Power, payload specialist, STS-41G

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. The Genesis of the Payload Specialist
2. Integrating the Payload Specialists
3. Spacelab, a New Era in Spaceflight
4. Mission to Planet Earth
5. Time to Specialize
6. The Supermission
7. Europe’s Coming Out Party
8. Supersonic in a Paper Airplane
9. The Highest Ground
10. Space Walker
11. First Passenger
12. International Goodwill
13. The Spaceman from Chilpancingo
14. On the Way to Disney World
15. Walking through Fire
Appendix: Summary of Missions Carrying Payload Specialists, 1983–86


2020 Space Hipsters Prize for Best Book in Astronomy, Space Exploration, or Space History

Also of Interest