When the space shuttle Columbia touched down in late 1983, payload specialist Byron K. Lichtenberg emerged from the Spacelab-1 mission both triumphant and troubled. The experiments—on everything from astronomy to protein crystal growth studies—had gone exceedingly well, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration wanted him to fly again.
There was, however, a slight problem: Lichtenberg, a biomedical engineer, was about to become unemployed.
For the five years leading up to Spacelab, the energetic scientist had worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Manned Vehicle Laboratory. Much of his research involved an experiment on space motion-sickness that he and MIT graduate student Anthony P. Arrott, who manned a Mission Control console during the trip, had prepared for Lichtenberg's first shuttle flight, But because MIT had no experiments scheduled, for the next flight, Lichtenberg,s job at the Cambridge, Mass., universiy was to end with that Spacelab mission.
What to do? Almost...