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The Battle of Lake Erie and Its Aftermath
Slavery in the North
Visions of Progress
Baseball's Natural
Animating Space
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The Search for the Man in the Iron Mask
The Bridges of Vietnam
Living in the Land of Death
Martin Luther King's Biblical Epic
Pioneers of Promotion

Come Fly with UsCome Fly with Us

NASA's Payload Specialist Program

Melvin Croft and John Youskauskas

Narrated by Robert J. Eckrich

Available from Audible

Book published by University of Nebraska Press

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.

Melvin Croft has over thirty years of experience as a geologist and is a member of the organization collectSpace, which is dedicated to educating the public about historical and current space exploration. He is a contributor to Footprints in the Dust: The Epic Voyages of Apollo, 1969–1975.

John Youskauskas is a captain for a major fractional business jet operator. He has also served as an aviation safety board member and has contributed to a number of aviation safety publications. He is a contributor to Footprints in the Dust: The Epic Voyages of Apollo, 1969–1975 and to Fallen Astronauts: Heroes Who Died Reaching for the Moon.


“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.”


“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

All titles are published by:
University Press Audiobooks
an imprint of Redwood Audiobooks

University Press Audiobooks