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I got this from my middle school library back in the 80s but the book seemed to be from the late 50s to mid 70s. This was a young adult targeted novel about a captain who hijacks a military spaceship in protest of nuclear weapons.

He takes school kids as hostages, however he eventually dies from radiation sickness and the children have to figure out how to pilot the ship themselves. I recall a scene where one of the young people succumbs to radiation sickness, and there is a scene where his hair is falling out.

  • I remember reading a mirror-universe evil Captain Picard fan-fic like this, but it probably ain't it. – Rebel-Scum Jun 3 at 20:53
  • This is the same as scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/47234/… .. Morte, please formally accept the answer below using the green checkmark (at top left of the answer) when you get a chance, and welcome! – Otis Jun 9 at 22:54
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I believe that this is Space Hostages by Nicholas Fisk

The synopsis matches what you remember:

A crazed and dying flight lieutenant, nine village children and a top-secret aircraft - all of them are out of control and adrift in space. The bullying Tony sets himself up as captain, and leads the ship towards horrifying new dangers.

The book was first published in 1967, though like you I remember getting it from my School library in the mid 80's.

  • This is it! Thanks for the quick answer. – Morte Jun 5 at 19:29

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