ESA astronaut Pedro Duque from Spain, has been selected by NASA as an Alternate Payload Specialist for the Life and Microgravity Spacelab (LMS) mission (STS-78), presently scheduled to be flown aboard the Shuttle Columbia in the summer of 1996.
In the event that one of the primary Payload Specialists could not fly, the Alternate Payload Specialist astronaut would be required to take his place. Duque will train for the flight duties of a Payload Specialist and -as an Alternate Payload Specialist- this training will allow him to perform a very important ground support role as Crew Interface Coordinator in the Payload Operations Control Centre at the Marshall Space Flight Centre during the mission.
This 16 day long mission will conduct life and microgravity science experiment aboard the Space Shuttle and will fly -inter alia- ESA facilities to perform various experiments in the fields of materials processing, protein crystal growth and measurement of torque velocities. This continued cooperation with NASA reflects both the good performance of the ESA multi-user facilities and the satisfaction of European and US investigators who conducted their experiments with these facilities during previous Spacelab missions.
NASA astronauts Susan Helms, Richard Linnehan and Charles Brady have been named mission specialists. Also on the STS-78 flight will be Jean-Jacques Favier of the French Space Agency (CNES) and Robert Brent Thirsk of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) who will serve as Payload Specialists. The commander and the pilot will be named later at a later stage.
While Pedro Duque will be the alternate payload specialist to Jean-Jacques Favier, Luca Urbani, of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), will act as alternate payload specialist to Robert Thirsk.
Pedro Duque is fully qualified for Russian flights on Soyuz/Mir as he trained for as ESA astronaut the one month long EUROMIR 94 mission which took place in October/November 1994. For that mission he was the stand-by ESA crew member and, from the mission control Centre in Kaliningrad near Moscow, performed the functions of prime Crew Interface Coordinator.