Hubble’s Story

October 28, 2009

School of the Art Institute of Chicago, SAIC Ballroom
112 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL, United States


In May 2009, NASA astronaut and University of Chicago alumnus John Grunsfeld boarded the last Space Shuttle to visit the Hubble Space Telescope. Dr. Grunsfeld successfully upgraded the telescope with new cameras and instruments and made repairs to allow the telescope to begin a new journey of discovery.

During the course of 12 days in orbit the Hubble Servicing Mission 4, or STS-125, allowed two teams of astronauts to perform 5 space walks. In this talk, Astronaut Grunsfeld will describe the adventure of working in orbit on the Hubble Space Telescope and the exciting scientific results that the new instruments are providing.

Dr. John Grunsfeld, NASA Astronaut

Born in Chicago, Illinois. Married to the former Carol E. Schiff. They have two children. John enjoys mountaineering, flying, sailing, bicycling, and music. His father, Ernest A. Grunsfeld III, resides in Highland Park, Illinois. Carol’s parents, David and Ruth Schiff, reside in Highland Park, Illinois.

Graduated from Highland Park High School, Highland Park, Illinois, in 1976; received a bachelor of science degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1980; a master of science degree and a doctor of philosophy degree in physics from the University of Chicago in 1984 and 1988, respectively.

American Astronomical Society. American Alpine Club. Experimental Aircraft Association. Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association.

W.D. Grainger Fellow in Experimental Physics, 1988-89. NASA Graduate Student Research Fellow, 1985-87. NASA Space Flight Medals (1995, 1997, 1999, 2002). NASA Exceptional Service Medals (1997, 1998, 2000). NASA Distinguished Service Medal (2002). Distinguished Alumni Award, University of Chicago. Alumni Service Award, University of Chicago. Komarov Diploma (1995), Korolov Diploma (1999, 2002).

Dr. Grunsfeld’s academic positions include that of Visiting Scientist, University of Tokyo/Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (1980-81); Graduate Research Assistant, University of Chicago (1981-85); NASA Graduate Student Fellow, University of Chicago (1985-87); W.D. Grainger Postdoctoral Fellow in Experimental Physics, University of Chicago (1988-89); and Senior Research Fellow, California Institute of Technology (1989-92). Dr. Grunsfeld’s research has covered x-ray and gamma-ray astronomy, high-energy cosmic ray studies, and development of new detectors and instrumentation. Dr. Grunsfeld studied binary pulsars and energetic x-ray and gamma ray sources using the NASA Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, x-ray astronomy satellites, radio telescopes, and optical telescopes including the NASA Hubble Space Telescope.

Dr. Grunsfeld was selected by NASA in March 1992, and reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1992. He completed one year of training and is qualified for flight selection as a mission specialist. Dr. Grunsfeld was initially detailed to the Astronaut Office Mission Development Branch and was assigned as the lead for portable computers for use in space. Following his first flight, he led a team of engineers and computer programmers tasked with defining and producing the crew displays for command and control of the International Space Station (ISS). As part of this activity he directed an effort combining the resources of the Mission Control Center (MCC) Display Team and the Space Station Training Facility. The result was the creation of the Common Display Development Facility (CDDF), responsible for the onboard and MCC displays for the ISS, using object-oriented programming techniques. Following his second flight, he was assigned as Chief of the Computer Support Branch in the Astronaut Office supporting Space Shuttle and International Space Station Programs and advanced technology development. Following STS-103, he served as Chief of the Extravehicular Activity Branch in the Astronaut Office. Following STS-109 Grunsfeld served as an instructor in the Extravehicular Activity Branch, and worked on the Orbital Space Plane, exploration concepts, and technologies for use beyond low earth orbit in the Advanced Programs Branch. He is currently the NASA Chief Scientist detailed to NASA Headquarters. A veteran of four space flights, STS-67 (1995), STS-81 (1997), STS-103 (1999) and STS-109 (2002), Dr. Grunsfeld has logged over 45 days in space, including 5 space walks totaling 37 hours and 32 minutes.

STS-67/Astro-2 Endeavour (March 2-18,1995) was launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and returned to land at Edwards Air Force Base, California. It was the second flight of the Astro observatory, a unique complement of three ultra-violet telescopes. During this record-setting 16-day mission, the crew conducted observations around the clock to study the far ultraviolet spectra of faint astronomical objects and the polarization of ultraviolet light coming from hot stars and distant galaxies. Mission duration was 399 hours and 9 minutes.

STS-81 Atlantis (January 12-22, 1997) was a 10-day mission, the 5th to dock with Russia’s Space Station Mir, and the 2nd to exchange U.S. astronauts. The mission also carried the Spacehab double module providing additional middeck locker space for secondary experiments. In five days of docked operations more than three tons of food, water, experiment equipment and samples were moved back and forth between the two spacecraft. Grunsfeld served as the flight engineer on this flight. Following 160 orbits of the Earth the STS-81 mission concluded with a landing on Kennedy Space Center’s Runway 33 ending a 3.9 million mile journey. Mission duration was 244 hours, 56 minutes.

STS-103 Discovery (December 19-27, 1999) was an 8-day mission during which the crew successfully installed new gyroscopes and scientific instruments and upgraded systems on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Enhancing HST scientific capabilities required three space walks (EVA). Grunsfeld performed two space walks totaling 16 hours and 23 minutes. The STS-103 mission was accomplished in 120 Earth orbits, traveling 3.2 million miles in 191 hours and 11 minutes.

STS-109 Columbia (March 1-12, 2002) was the fourth Hubble Space Telescope (HST) servicing mission. The crew of STS-109 successfully upgraded the Hubble Space Telescope installing a new digital camera, a cooling system for the infrared camera, new solar arrays and a new power system. HST servicing and upgrades were accomplished by four crewmembers during a total of 5 EVAs in 5 consecutive days. Grunsfeld served as the Payload Commander on STS-109 in charge of the space walking activities and the Hubble payload. He also performed 3 space walks totaling 21 hours and 9 minutes, including the installation of the new Power Control Unit. STS-109 orbited the Earth 165 times, and covered 3.9 million miles in over 262 hours.

Presented in partnership with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago.

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In May of 2009, the Hubble Space Telescope’s last service mission successfully upgraded and repaired the telescope to include new cameras and instruments.  During the 12 day mission in orbit, the Hubble Servicing Mission 4 (STS-125) performed 5 spacewalks to complete the upgrades so that the telescope could begin a new journey of discovery.  Join us for a discussion with Astronaut John Grunsfeld who will describe the adventures of working in orbit on the Hubble Space Telescope and the exciting scientific results that the new instruments provide.