Hubble repair crew visits Stennis

Published 1:08 am Friday, June 26, 2009

“The American heroes standing before you accomplished five space walks in five consecutive days during the final trip to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope,” said Marino Benigno, director of operations for Stennis Space Center, during an assembly on Wednesrday where Stennis employees gathered to welcome home the crew of Space Shuttle Atlantis. The crew also came to thank Stennis employees for their contribution to the successful mission.

Thanking the different NASA agencies was the last part of a mission that was assigned to the crew more than two and a half years ago and whose primary focus was to be the final shuttle flight to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

“It really is an honor to be here because as I look back at everything we did… it really was the teamwork across NASA that made it happen,” said Scott Altman, the crew’s commander, four time space flight veteran. He said Stennis’ contribution was critical in making sure that the crew had what they needed to get off the ground.

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“Not everything went according to plan, but we had a plan to deal with it when things went different,” he said.

Altman introduced the six of the seven-member crew who were in attendance. Each of them was given a chance to add to the presentation where they shared pictures, movies and humorous stories of their 11- turned 14-day mission. In attendance were Scott Altman, Commander; Michael Good, Mission Specialist-1; John Grunsfeld, Mission Specialist-3; Andrew Feustel, Mission Specialist-5; Gregory C. Johnson, Pilot; Megan McArthur, Mission Specialist-2 and Mike Massimino, Mission Specialist-4.

During the mission, five space walks were planned for the astronauts to install upgrades to Hubble Telescope or to make necessary repairs. On this trip, two of the longest top 10 space walks of all time were recorded. At least one of thespace walks lasted for eight hours long.

Each walk consisted of crew members either working the robotics from inside the shuttle or going outside of the shuttle to perform tasks on the telescope, such as installing new instruments and thermal blankets, repairing two existing instruments, refurbishing subsystems and replacing gyroscopes, batteries and a unit that stores and transmits science data to Earth. For the task, astronauts brought 116 instruments that were specially designed for this mission.

Though the crew encountered several problems throughout the course of the mission, perhaps the scariest moment of the entire flight, said Altman, came about one second after take-off when an alarm started sounding due to a wire shorting. Fortunately back ups were put into place to keep the crew from having to react to that first alarm. “It really gets your attention,” said Altman.

Once the mission was completed, the astronauts prepared the ship for reentry, but were not allowed to land on schedule because of bad weather in Florida. The crew had three more days to take in the sights from the windows of the shuttle, take pictures and watch movies, including “Star Trek” and “Apollo 13.” Sights from the windows the astronauts said they particularly enjoyed were views of Earth at night offering flashes of light from thunderstorms firing off in the earth’s atmosphere. Window views provided plenty of Kodak moments, with views of the Earth from space, and the crew took more than 1,300 photos.

The crew of STS-125 was finally able to land, after being rerouted from Florida to California. Altman said they had only had one day of electricity to spare before they actually landed.

After the presentation, which included a question-and-answer session by Stennis employees, the astronauts received a plaque from Benigno on behalf of Stennis, and they presented one to her in return.