Friday, June 26, 2009, DEB Building Auditorium, NASA Glenn Research Center – Cleveland, OH
Three of the astronauts who recently flew to the Hubble Space Telescope to service and repair it on STS-125 came to GRC to give a mission brief. Commander Scott Altman and Mission Specialists Mike Good and Drew Feustel gave a first-hand account of the experience of the flight and the mission performed.
The commander opened the talk by discussing the Hubble telescope itself and what impact it made on science. He then talked about the few days leading to launch and the launch itself. He described his mental and physical feelings during launch ascent as a video was showing their launch. There had been a failure almost immediately in one of the flight computers but this was not a big problem because the Shuttle has four for redundancy. The video showed the spacecraft ascend into orbit, leaving the solid boosters and liquid fuel tank behind. Altman explained how one goes from pulling 3 g’s to weightlessness in the blink of an eye.
Next, the crew talked about the rest of the mission. They prepared for a dock with Hubble, in which the arm of the Shuttle would grab the satellite and bring it onto the payload bay. The repair mission consisted of spacewalks, or extra-vehicular activities (EVAs) to perform the necessary upgrades and general repairs. On the first of five days of spacewalks, Feustel encountered a stuck bolt on one of the instruments. After some drama and many tries, the bolt came free after thirty to forty minutes. The rest of the day proceeded relatively smoothly and all the day’s goals were achieved. The second day also had a slight hitch. The spacewalk turned into an eight-hour affair because of hardware issues.
The third day was supposed to be the longest but went very smoothly; the first-ever on-orbit change of a computer motherboard occurred. This was especially challenging since many small bolts were involved and no debris could be tolerated. A device that would encase the computer and only allow a screwdriver in and no screws out was fitted over the computer to collect the screws.
The fourth day of EVAs involved changing out a large piece of hardware that added a new science instrument. This proved difficult and an arm had to be broken off to get to the instrument to be removed. The final day involved some maintenance and another tricky bolt was encountered. This was easier to deal with because they had dealt with a similar problem during the first space walk. Feustel and a partner performed space walks on days one, three, and five while Good and a partner performed them on 2 and 4. During their non-spacewalk days, the commander and other crew members kept the crew decks clean and performed checks and maintenance operations. Many photos were shown of the crew on their mission and having some fun.
The mission was a complete success, and with all tasks accomplished, the Hubble was working better than ever. There are now six sensing instruments to help us delve further into the mysteries of our universe. The astronauts had to wait several days to return to Earth, because NASA prefers to land the shuttle at Kennedy, but the weather was bad. Therefore, they landed at Edwards Air Force base in California instead. The landing was a success and a video was shown of the landing.
The astronauts then thanked GRC for all their help and support and opened the floor for questions. The astronauts explained the upgrades to Hubble in more depth. They talked about how they became astronauts and the many varied career paths one can take to do so. Finally, a question on the danger of space debris was posed and it was explained that measures are in place to avoid the debris, and movements into safer trajectories can be performed. The Academyites greatly enjoyed this talk and learned a lot about STS-125.