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This is the newest category of a space crew member. The payload specialist is a professional in the physical or life sciences. The payload specialist also can be a technician skilled in operating Shuttle-unique equipment. For NASA-sponsored spacecraft or experiments requiring a payload specialist, an investigator nominates the specialist and NASA approves his/her decision.
In addition to intensive training for a specific mission assignment, the payload specialist also must take a flight training course to become familiar with Shuttle systems, payload support equipment, crew operations, housekeeping techniques and emergency procedures. This training is conducted at different locations depending on the mission. Payload specialist training may begin as much as 2 years before a flight.