Research Matters

Research Matters

Mission to Hubble


During the final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, one astronomer watches with uncommon insight into the work of the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

Aired May 17, 2009


2 minutes 3.7 MB) | Download mp3

Transcript

During the final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, one astronomer watches with uncommon insight into the work of the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.

Today, Steve Hawley is a mild-mannered professor of physics and astronomy at KU. But Hawley previously served for three decades as a daring NASA astronaut, logging five shuttle missions that included both deployment and servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Steve Hawley: Of those five missions three of them were associated with NASA's great observatories - two Hubble missions and one was the deployment of the Chandra observatory. So for me as an astronomer and then as an astronaut, the chance to participate in three space missions that had directly to do with either putting the great telescopes in space or improving the great telescopes in space was great.

Launched in 1990, the Hubble observatory has provided dazzling images of the universe along with a revolution in astronomical understanding. But the satellite has needed a tune up.

Steve Hawley: Hubble is showing its age. Because the shuttle will retire in 2010, this is the last opportunity we'll go to Hubble, at least with the shuttle. So we really want to do everything. We're going to upgrade some systems, we want to install some new instruments, and we want to fix the two instruments that have currently failed and are not usable. If we can do all of that, then Hubble will be almost pristine and good for several more years. But it's a very difficult mission - that's a lot to do.

Asked what guidance he would give to the crew of a spaceflight to the Hubble, Hawley's advice was: go slow.

Steve Hawley: Take your time and think about what you're doing," he said. "Because we always had a rule on the crews that I was on which is no matter how bad things are you can always make it worse. It's a strange environment to be in particularly if you haven't been there before. And there are very few things you have to do right this instant. So its always important to think about the next step and make sure that what its about to be is proper.

For more about Steve Hawley and the Hubble Space Telescope, log on to Research Matters dot K-U dot E-D-U. For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

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Mission to Hubble

During the final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, one KU astronomer watches with uncommon insight into the work of the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

Tell me more