Status Report

Hubble Telescope Servicing Mission Crew Press Conference 31 October 2006 (Transcript)

By SpaceRef Editor
November 8, 2006
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Hubble Telescope Servicing Mission Crew Press Conference 31 October 2006 (Transcript)

Johnson Space Center


MODERATOR: Good afternoon, and welcome to today’s briefing for the crew of the newly announced Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission. We will begin today with short introductions and some comments, and then we will move to Q&A.

This press briefing will be about an hour, and it will be followed by a photo session with the crew here at the Johnson Space Center.

I would like to begin by introducing the commander of the mission. To my right is Scott Altman who has just recently retired from the U.S. Navy as a captain, and he is a graduate from the University of Illinois and has a master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School. He has been a Navy pilot and test pilot and has logged over 4,000 hours in about 40 different aircraft. He entered the Astronaut Corps in 1995 for initial training and then moved to three different Shuttle missions. The first was STS-90 in 1998 where he served as a pilot. Next was STS-106 in the year 2000 when he again served as a pilot on an early mission to the Space Station, and then in STS-109 in the year 2002, he, as well as John

Grunsfeld and Mike Massimino went to the Hubble Space Telescope for a servicing mission.

And with that, I would like to hand it over to Scott, so he can introduce his crew and take a few comments.

COMMANDER ALTMAN: Thank you very much, Doug.

I just want to echo a comment that I heard this morning at the announcement. It really is a great day for discovery, for exploration, and I think for NASA, to be able to go back to the Hubble Space Telescope, extend its life, keep its vision out there. It is just a tremendous opportunity for science and I think for the future. The discoveries we don’t know about yet, the observations we haven’t taken, it is just really thrilling for me, for all of us, to be a part of the team that is going to work on that, and we really are thrilled to be a part of that team that has been working to keep Hubble alive, and hopefully, we can extend its reach for an additional period of time.

I want to introduce the crew and spend a little bit of time with them. We do have an extremely talented group of individuals with me. I am just so proud to be a part of this time, and I am looking forward to the work in the future as we get ready to fly the mission.

To my right, we have Greg Johnson, call sign “Ray Jay,” fellow Naval aviator and test pilot school graduate, although he went to the Air Force test pilot school. He worked with me previously when I was in the Shuttle branch. So we have had a great working relationship, and I know he will be a phenomenal PLT on this mission.

I would like him to just spend a couple minutes introducing himself.

MR. JOHNSON: Well, thanks, Scooter. It is really a privilege and an honor to be here. When I gave a lot of talks to kids at schools, they always ask about the Hubble. So I actually put a Hubble set of slides together to talk about what the Hubble does for science, and to be able to be a part of the crew to extend the mission for five years is really, really special for me, especially on this Halloween Day.

I never dreamed that as a kid flying C-planes in Seattle, trying to put myself through the University of Washington that I would be able to fly in the Space Shuttle. So it is really an honor.

A lot of people will say it is not really what you do in life, it is who you do it with, and I can honestly tell you this crew is just awesome, great to be around, and to be part of the Hubble servicing mission is just the best I can think of.

So it’s been a lot of experience to get here. I am proud to be here and to be a great part of the crew, and I am ready to start training, so thanks. COMMANDER ALTMAN: Great. Great to have you on board.

Next to Ray Jay, of course, is an old friend of Hubble’s, visited it twice already and looking forward to a third time, John Grunsfeld. I am just thrilled to be reunited with him, looking forward to working together again.

He is probably the most knowledgeable and experienced person in our office on Hubble, also experienced with spacewalking, and he will have his share of that on this mission. I will turn it over to John to expand on that.

DR. GRUNSFELD: Thank you, Scooter.

It is really a tremendous team that is assembled here. I am very excited that we are going to go back to Hubble, and I think this is a wonderful crew to go do it. We have a lot of experience with you, Scooter, with Mike Massimino.

As Barbara Mikulski said this morning, it is a great day for science, it is a great day for exploration, discovery, and the inspiration that Hubble provides and will continue to provide with the new servicing mission.

People have talked about our STS-109 crew as the crew that were the last folks to touch Hubble, the last human beings to touch Hubble, and it is just amazing that we are sitting here today, thanks really to the very hard work of the people in the Shuttle program and all across NASA who have put together the tools, the techniques, so that we can fly back to Hubble and that we can fly to the International Space Station as safely as we possibly can.

So it is remarkable that we are here to talk about this, and thanks also, of course, to the folks at the Goddard Space Flight Center and the Telescope Institute who have kept the dream alive, who have kept Hubble doing great science, and who will continue to keep Hubble moving forward in discovery until we are able to get there, sometime in 2008.


And of course, to his right is another former member of the crew, Mike Massimino, did two spacewalks on STS-109, was a rookie back then, but now comes to this crew as a leader and an experienced Shuttle crew member and who is going to be doing a lot of the work and leadership for the EVA task.


DR. MASSIMINO: Thanks, Scooter.

It is a real pleasure for me to be here today with my friends on this crew. I was very excited when I got assigned to my first flight to Hubble, and being a rookie, I was just thrilled and looking forward to it, like I know Megan and Mike and Drew and Ray Jay are, but I think I am more excited this time. I think it is because I know what is ahead of us. The opportunity to fly in space and view the earth and work on the Hubble is an extraordinary privilege. It is a real blessing, and a chance to be a part of the Hubble team again is something I am very much looking forward to.

They are the best group of people anybody can work with. The folks at the Goddard Space Flight Center, the folks we have here that work with at the Johnson Space Center, and the people around the country and around the world that support this great project, for us to come in and be a part of their team for a couple years and get ready for our mission is just a real privilege.

So it was a highlight of my professional career doing it last time, and I am just so thrilled that I am going to have a chance to go back and do it again, so thanks.

COMMANDER ALTMAN: Great, Mike. Great to be working with you again.

Now, Megan McArthur, the next member of the crew to Mike’s right, joins us as a rookie from the class of 2000. She has a background in aeronautical engineering and also oceanography. She has blended those two things in undersea adventures and research, now has an opportunity to apply those talents that she has accumulated into robotic skills as we explore that great ocean of outer space. Megan?

MS. McARTHUR: Thanks, Scooter.

Obviously, I am very happy to be here. I am thrilled to be on this team. It is still sinking in, and I am really looking forward to working with this crew and getting to be a part of the Hubble team.

Hubble is a really special instrument, whose science resonates with people worldwide, and it is a very special opportunity for me, and I am very grateful to be here. Thanks.


Next to Megan, then, is Drew Feustel, a fellow classmate from the class of 2000. He has a background in geophysics and geology. He also shares my enthusiasm for classic car restoration, except I think he has probably more skill and experience at working on that, and we are looking forward to letting him use those skills as we work on the Hubble Telescope. Drew?

DR. FEUSTEL: Thanks, Scooter.

I want to echo what everybody has said, that it’s a pleasure and honor to be here. One of the things that I’ve told myself recently and my kids is that with opportunity comes obligation. So we are all here. We have a great opportunity. We are obligated to do a good job and do the best that we can do.

And I want to take some time to thank the people who got me here, my family, my wife, my kids, my parents, and all the educational institutions that helped get me here and the work environments as well. It has been a long arduous path for me, but I am really pleased to be here, and I look forward to working with all of you folks on the crew. It is going to be hard to concentrate having so much fun, like I am sure we will, but we are all here to do the job and do it well. So thanks, Scooter and everybody else, for supporting us on this mission.


And the final member of the crew to introduce this morning is Mike Good, who is an Air Force colonel, aeronautical engineer, Air Force test pilot school graduate, flew F-11’s operationally, also helped develop the B-2. So we are thrilled to have him as a member of the team, bringing his operational experience to the work that we are going to do on Hubble.


COLONEL GOOD: Thanks, Scooter.

Well, as you have heard everyone say, flying in than on this Hubble mission. I am excited to be a part of this team. I mean, I don’t think excited really comes close to describing it, but we are all looking forward to getting started with our training, getting into the training flows and working with the different teams from really across NASA. All the different centers are involved.

I know that today there are probably a lot of excited and happy astronomers and astrophysicists, but there are an equal number of happy students and teachers out there that have used the Hubble as a training tool and a learning tool.

So we are looking forward to going up there and just making Hubble as good as we can, really optimizing its performance to a new all-time high, and so we are just really looking forward to that, so that Hubble can continue to inspire and explore and discover the universe.

COMMANDER ALTMAN: You know, I find myself getting all motivated and inspired just listening to the comments of the crew. So I can’t wait to get out there and begin working and training to develop this.

This is the opening chapter, opening step of a long journey. The flight is scheduled for May of 2008. We have a lot of work to do to get ready, but this is just a tremendous start. You can tell we are all thrilled to be here and be a part of this team, looking forward to working with the rest of the NASA family as we embark on this great mission.

Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Excellent. Okay. Thank you, Scott, and we will start off with questions down here in Houston and start with Mark. Please give your name and affiliation, and give us your question, please.

QUESTIONER: Thanks. Mark Carreau from the Houston Chronicle. I have a question and a follow-up. My first is for Johns Grunsfeld. Can you talk a little bit about how helpful it is to have the experienced members on your crew go back and do this mission? There’re three of you that have been there before. So what I am looking for is how helpful is that.

DR. GRUNSFELD: Sure. Hi, Mark. Thanks for coming.

I think it is very helpful. We have a flight crew that has three folks who have been to Hubble, and the rest of the crew consists of rookies. So I think it is our opportunity to pass on to the rookies our experience and also to provide a measure of certainty that we know the telescope, we know the training process, and it is a risk mitigation.

We have demonstrated performance. Mike did an awesome job on the last mission, and I think together, we will be able to put together a team, as we have just started today, that will get to Hubble as an experienced crew. So I think it makes a big difference, and we have done that since the second servicing mission, had some carryover.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

And for Captain Altman, there has been some talk, of course, about how this mission differs from the other missions that the Shuttle will fly before retirement and that you are going to the Space Telescope, there is no safe haven. What is your assessment of the risk of doing this kind of mission versus one where you have the Space Station to use as a safe haven if there was some difficulty that couldn’t be repaired?

COMMANDER ALTMAN: Well, we have looked very hard at the safety of this mission and evaluating that against the standard really of having the Space Station there as a space haven, and we have come up with a strategy that I think ends up equalizing the risk as much as we can by taking our own safe haven along with us, being able to shelter in place until another Shuttle came up and got us if that were to happen, but the first thing is making sure that we have handled the risk, the source of that problem, as well as possible we are collecting data from all the Shuttle flights right now, and it looks like we have made a great step in that direction, to limit the risk of ascent debris, control that as much as possible, in order to stack as many things in our favor as possible to make it very, very unlikely that we would come to a Launch on Need mission requirement.

MODERATOR: All right. Next, go ahead.

QUESTIONER: Robert Perlman with collectSPACE. How long have you been a crew? When did you learn that you were assigned to this mission, and when you were told, did you have any immediate questions about it? How much of the mission plan were you told about?

COMMANDER ALTMAN: I think we should have one of our rookies answer that question. How about you start out, Ray Jay?

MR. JOHNSON: Well, we were notified in advance, not a whole long time in advance, but I had been tracking the Hubble a little bit for the Space Shuttle program in Astronaut Office, so was aware of what the mission was about and the complexities of the mission and then also discussing the Launch on Need options.

I talked to John Grunsfeld. John is kind of the office expert in the build-up to Hubble and helped get it back as a mission on the manifest. So we have talked the Launch on Need.

But we were notified just a little in advance and just enough to get prepared for this press conference.

COMMANDER ALTMAN: Megan, do you have anything to add on that?

MS. McARTHUR: Well, no, just what Ray Jay said, that we were just real pleased to hear the news, and a few of us had been able to work as the team was investigating the possibility for potentially going to do a servicing mission. We had the opportunity to do some of the development work earlier this year, and so learning a little bit about the telescope, but obviously still have a lot to learn.

COMMANDER ALTMAN: Yes. And I guess I will wrap that up by saying I didn’t fully believe it until I heard the words come out of the Administrator’s mouth this morning at the press conference. So that is when I really started getting excited.

MODERATOR: Next up, Gina.

QUESTIONER: Gina Sunseri, ABC News, for Mike.

Mike, talk to me a little bit about the complexities from these spacewalks. I know you have done some training, and we talked about the 110 teeny, tiny little screws. How complex will that be for you all? DR. MASSIMINO: The flight, there’re some things on the flight EVA-wise that have been done before. The Wide Field Camera. The Cosmic Origin Spectrograph is a big instrument that is similar to the ones that we changed out on previous missions, but the task you are referring to is the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, the STIS, which needs a repair done to it to remove a main electronics board and put a new one in.

That involves removing a panel that has non-capped or small, little fasteners that need to come out, so you can remove this panel and get access to this board that needs to come in and out. When we first heard about this task, I think the reaction of John and I and the folks up here, anyone that heard about it, said, “You have to be kidding. There is no way you can do this inside of Hubble, and these little fasteners, how are you going to do this?,” but the Hubble team that we have been referring to is a pretty amazing bunch of folks and very innovative, and the idea they came up with was to come up with a capture plate, what we call a fastener capture plate that they will be using that will attach to this panel, and then it allows you through a piece of Lexan with small holes in it — allows you to put a drill bit, more or less, inside of the hole, undo the fastener, and as the fastener comes out, it will be captured behind that Lexan. So it won’t cause any damage, but you can still get access to it and be able to get all those done and remove the panel and have access to the instrument, replace the electronics board, and put a new panel on top of it.

So that is the new innovative task, and there are new tools and new techniques that need to be developed for it. So that is the one that is going to require the most development.

QUESTIONER: Commander Altman, what is the kind of “gee, whiz,” “oh, boy” part of going back to Hubble for you?

COMMANDER ALTMAN: You know, every time I talk at a school or do a presentation and I show some of the pictures that the instrument we put in last time made possible and I look at that, I am just amazed at the universe we live in and to have the opportunity to go back to the instrument that makes all those observations and photos possible, to expand our understanding of the universe. It is just thrilling for me. I know the moment as we rendezvous and close in and you look out the window and you actually see Hubble up there as we approach it, it is just an incredible exhilaration to see it there as you close in.

MODERATOR: Go ahead, Jim.

QUESTIONER: Jim Oberg with NBC.

My question is you don’t seem to have the exclusive position of being the last visit to Hubble because you are towing equipment for the next visit. Would you describe the optional future visits to Hubble that future vehicles, manned or unmanned, you might expect to be able to get to Hubble in the next decade or so?

COMMANDER ALTMAN: Well, there are quite a few different options. I will let John talk a little bit about that.

Of course, the Administrator this morning pointed out that this is the last Shuttle mission planned to visit Hubble and will install the capability, I think, to access it with other means, one of which was referred to as the CEV.

John, you may have some more information on that.

DR. GRUNSFELD: All right. The first question is what kind of Hubble lifetime can we expect from the Shuttle servicing, and you have heard numbers like 2013. That is bantered about because that is the requirement for servicing mission, that after you go and repair and upgrade the telescope, you get 5 years of additional life, science life, out of the telescope.

History has shown — and especially with the current two gyro mode that we are operating under — we should be able to even get more life out of it.

One of the requirements for this mission, though, is to put on the capability, whether it is sensors or targets or actually mechanisms, so that at some point, we can deorbit the Hubble safely, and that is something that is called the soft capture mechanism. So we are installing that on the bottom of the telescope, and that is the device that will enable other spacecraft to dock with the Hubble, to deorbit or to service it, depending upon where we are in space technology at the time.

If we don’t do anything, Hubble will deorbit by itself, just because of atmospheric drag, a little as it is, sometime around 2025. So we have quite a bit of time to be clever and to work out ways to provide a deorbit capability, but also possibly to service the Hubble.

As we heard this morning, the Crew Exploration Vehicle is not out of the question, and in fact, it is an interface that is coming to the Crew Exploration Vehicle. So it may be a derivative, or it may be something like that.

QUESTIONER: A follow-up to that. For the new members of the crew, you have seen the tradition of people re-flying to Hubble. Are you good for one mission or two, or how many? Would you like to go back to Hubble, 10 years from now?

COMMANDER ALTMAN: Mike, do you want to take that, Mike Good?

COLONEL GOOD: Sure. I am just, as I said before, excited to be assigned to a space mission, and I never dreamed it would be to Hubble, but, of course, I would go back again on any future space vehicle if that became a possibility.

MODERATOR: All right. It looks like that completes the first round of questions down here at the Johnson Space Center.

We will go to the Kennedy Space Center next where I understand we have three reporters. Go ahead.

QUESTIONER: Can you elaborate a little more on when you found out about who was going on the mission? I think Greg said he just found out shortly before, I guess, the announcement today, but I am assuming, Scott, John, or Mike, you all might have known a little bit sooner, and I was wondering what kind of training have you all been doing so far, and have you been to Goddard for any of that training? Just if you could answer that, and then I have a follow-up, please.

COMMANDER ALTMAN: Mike, do you want to talk a little bit about the work you have been doing on Hubble preparing for this?

DR. MASSIMINO: Yes. As far as when you find out, I guess we really knew for sure this morning when the Administrator said this is what we were going to do and who was going to be on it, and luckily, we are able to all get into the same shirts, which is what we have really been spending our time on in the last day or so since we found out.


DR. MASSIMINO: What has happened since, I guess, about a year or so ago when there was some discussion about the possibility of going back to Hubble with a Shuttle, what that servicing mission might look like, and because of that, the folks at the Goddard Space Flight Center on the Hubble Team started looking at what they would do if they were able to have a mission because you need a couple of years, really, to get ready, and they didn’t want to be behind if it was announced.

So they looked at some of the things they would be doing, what the EVAs would look like. We have talked about a few of the things, the STIS task, instead of replacing the entire instrument doing a repair job on an instrument in place and also the soft capture mechanism that we have talked about that might go up there with a future vehicle to rendezvous with. Things like that, that would require some new development, they started looking at in more depth.

They asked for help from the Astronaut Office and from the folks here at the Johnson Space Center and other places. So a few of us, a bunch of folks from our office were able to participate in that, and we had a couple visits up to the Goddard Space Flight Center to look at the tools that were being developed and gave our opinions. Being experienced Hubble crew members, we were able to give them some of our experience and knowledge and worked with them to develop those tools and techniques, and we have also had some events down here at the Johnson Space Center, but those have just been preliminary development events that we had.

Now that there is a crew assigned, we are going to get into it heavy and hit it real hard, but we laid the groundwork. Chuck Shaw has led a team down here at the Johnson Space Center, looking into the Hubble mission, and we have been a part of that in any way we could.

It has been preliminary stuff, but now we are ready to go full blast.

QUESTIONER: As a follow-up, could you talk about how the training would progress over the next 18 months and what the different stages of the training will be?

COMMANDER ALTMAN: John, you probably have the best handle on that right now.


As Mike said, the workup to this point has been developmental over engineering work, and we have had a number of folks from the Astronaut Office involved in that.

Now that we have a crew, we can go forward with the actual crew training part of the EVA task of the Shuttle tasks.

Because we have been to Hubble several times before, the template is somewhat well understood. There’re still some complexities, and the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph task is one of them, that there are still some details to be worked out, but we will start in earnest, as soon as we can get everything organized, training for the NBL, training in 1G situations for some of the hard stuff, and that will involve a crew being in the NBL almost every month from now until flight.

We have at least 12, roughly, sessions of five NBL runs each which is in the large pool in the space suits. So that is going to occupy a lot of time. A number of trips up to Goddard to work with the real hardware, down to KSC as we get close to flight, and, of course, all the Shuttle mission training in the simulators here at the Johnson Space Center flying the Shuttle training aircraft, and it will be a full plate.

QUESTIONER: This is Steven Young with for John Grunsfeld. When Sean O’Keefe took the decision to cancel the servicing mission, you were one of the most vocal supporters of that decision. I am just wondering what has changed in your mind personally since that time for you to not only, I presume, change your mind and also be part of this mission.

DR. GRUNSFELD: Sure. Well, I think your opening statement was incorrect. I supported Sean O’Keefe’s decision as the Administrator of NASA, and whether I agreed or disagreed with the decision was really irrelevant.

There is a big difference between a risk-taker, and quite honestly, you are looking at seven risk-takers up here on the stage and risk managers who are responsible for undertaking risk on behalf of the astronauts, on behalf of NASA, on behalf of the country, and in the case of Hubble, on behalf of people all around the world.

Mr. O’Keefe made the decision as NASA Administrator as the chief risk manager for the agency at a time when he had data in front of him that led him to that decision, and when the Administrator makes a decision like that, it is up to the team to support that decision and make the best out of it.

What we did as a team was to make sure that the Hubble science was supported, that we had a plan going forward that at least in principle would allow us to keep Hubble producing science as long as possible, and that would not prevent us or preclude us at some future time in going back with the Shuttle pending the data that was available to either the current Administrator or future Administrator.

What we saw this morning was that Mike Griffin reviewed all of that data as the current risk manager for the agency and made the decision that given the tremendous progress that we have made on the Shuttle program side in terms of safety and in terms of understanding the risks for ascent debris, for what we can do in terms of safe haven on the Shuttle, for inspection and repair, on the basis of all those considerations, he reinstated the mission, and it is because we were able as a team, starting with Mr. O’Keefe leading to Administrator Griffin, to keep the program alive and keep the science going.

I think it was Mr. O’Keefe who said it best when he made the decision, and I was sitting next to him at one of the press conferences. He said, “This is a difficult decision,” and he said it is not one that everybody is going to agree with, and in fact, he said there are plenty of astronauts — and he pointed to me. He said there are plenty of astronauts, including John Grunsfeld, who if given the opportunity would be first in line volunteering to go on such a mission. I can’t necessarily say I am first in line. I would say it is a seven-way tie, and we are all just thrilled to be here today.

QUESTIONER: Todd Halvorson of Florida Today, also for John Grunsfeld. Given what you have seen on the first three post-Columbia missions and the safety enhancements that you were just discussing, I am wondering if you can give me an idea of what your own personal assessment of the risk of this particular mission is and whether you think it is safer or more dangerous than previous Hubble servicing missions, given the fact that you guys would not be able to seek safe haven on the Space Station.

DR. GRUNSFELD: That is a wonderful question. In fact, that is one Scott Altman and I were discussing this morning.

I think we both agree that a mission in 2008 will be much safer than the STS-109 mission to Hubble that we flew in 2002.

The tragic loss of Columbia is one that hits us all very hard, and I know from some members of the folks sitting up here who were involved and I am sure for everybody, but involved in the Columbia recovery effort, this is still a very tough time.

The lessons that we have learned from that and all of the incredibly hard work from the best and brightest of NASA is what allows us to fly missions like STS-114, STS-121, and STS-115, the three missions we have flown so far with ever-increasing safety, and we are going to keep watching that.

We definitely did learn from Columbia, and we are changing our culture. We are going to keep watching safety every single mission, including Hubble and including the missions after that.

You have all heard me say this before, but I feel like a mission to Hubble is worth risking my life for, something I discussed with my family. It is something that is really important for our country, and I firmly believe that the next mission to Hubble will be much safer than the missions that we have flown before.

COMMANDER ALTMAN: John, I would just like to kind of follow on to that because I think the same thing.

Looking back at when we launched on STS-109, we had our understanding of the risk. Maybe we didn’t know as much as we thought we did then, but now as I look back on what we have learned from then to now, the improvements

that we have made, there is no doubt in my mind at all that the next time we go to Hubble, it will be significantly safer than when we launched on STS-109, and

I am prepared to do it, and I know the whole crew is ready to go. QUESTIONER: Just a quick follow from Mike Good.

I am wondering how you as a rookie feel about the risk involved with this mission from where you sit as a first-timer.

COLONEL GOOD: We talked about that at home, my family and I, already, and as you have heard, yeah, there’s a risk, and we all feel like it’s worth the risk. The reward is worth the risk to go to Hubble, and as I said before, to really optimize its performance and to bring it into its best capabilities.

As you have already heard from these guys, we have done a lot. We have come a long way since Columbia, and I feel good about that. We have inspection capability. We have repair capability, and we have a Launch on Need Mission that is going to be on the pad, waiting if we do need it.

So this mission that we are going to go on is going to be the safest of all the Shuttle missions up to that point. I think each mission just keeps getting safer and safer.

QUESTIONER: Dan Billow at WESH TV for Commander Altman.

You have touched on it a little bit, but let me ask you to kind of go over it again or elaborate. What steps are you going to take? And Mike just mentioned one of them, but what steps are you going to take on this flight to kind of minimize the risk or minimize the fact that you don’t have a safe haven up there?

COMMANDER ALTMAN: Well, probably the biggest one is that we are flying this time with an on-orbit inspection capability, just like the Return to Flight missions have all had. We will be able to inspect the vehicle, determine its condition.

Of course, we are EVA-capable with all the EVAs that are planned for Hubble. So, if we do find any damage, we will attempt to repair it.

If it turns out that that is unsuccessful, as Mike alluded to, the plan is to have a Shuttle on the launch pad, ready to go. We will kind of shelter in place by reducing the power load, extending up to 25 days on orbit while we wait for Shuttle to come and be our ride back home, just the way the Station crews do when they shelter on board the ISS and wait for a Shuttle to come up and pick them up to bring them home.

MODERATOR: All right. That completes the questions coming out of Kennedy Space Center, and now we will go up to NASA Headquarters. We have one journalist there I think that has one question.

QUESTIONER: Traci Watson, USA Today, for Dr. Grunsfeld.

I wanted to follow up on Steven Young’s question. You had the unenviable position a couple years ago of having to participate in the news conferences about the cancellation of SM-4, and I am wondering if you can give us a little more insight into your opinions at the time. Did you think it was an inadvisable thing to do, despite your own willingness to go?

DR. GRUNSFELD: That is a tough question to answer, and in order to understand the environment, you have to kind of rewind the movie to 2004, shortly after the Columbia accident, and understand the mind-set of everybody in management. We were still reeling from the loss of Columbia and the tragic loss of the crew.

I had to reconcile in my own brain my feelings about my love for the Hubble program, all the people who have spent their lives working on generating the great science, and the reality of what we could actually do with the Shuttle program.

Where I put myself was trying to project back to a previous tragedy which was Challenger. So the mind frame that I put myself in was to ask what did people do after Challenger, and I read a lot, and I talked to other astronauts who were around and went through that, and the answer was actually a pretty simple one. What Mr. O’Keefe said as NASA Administrator is that we are not going back to Hubble with the Space Shuttle, and so I asked myself the simple question. That’s a decision. It is really important that our leaders make decisions and that we follow them, but what is also interesting is and happened in Challenger, there were payloads that we had on the books that were also very important payloads. After the loss of Challenger, people said, well, if we can’t launch them on the Space Shuttle, how can we launch them, and we came up with alternate means of getting payloads to space that were very important, national security payloads, and also experiments.

Some experiments that were going up on the Shuttle went up on expendable launch vehicles. So I asked this question, if we can’t service Hubble using the Shuttle, how can we service Hubble, and out of those simple questions in discussions with Goddard and other folks came the concept or potential for doing robotic servicing.

The robotic servicing was actually a very useful exercise. You heard Mike Griffin this morning say that he thought it was not a viable alternative, and while that may be well true, what it did allow us to do is to continue working on the Hubble program and continuing to develop the instruments and the techniques that we might use for servicing.

A little bit earlier, you heard Mike Massimino talk about the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph repair and the 110 tiny screws. The way that we are planning to service the STIS instrument now was actually borne by the requirement of doing that same repair using robots, and that is a totally crazy idea. We never could have done it using robots, but the essential idea of how we are going to handle all of that came out of the robotic servicing program. So, to answer your question, the way I was able to reconcile my own feelings about the decision was to push forward and try to figure out a way that we could service Hubble.

MODERATOR: Okay. I believe we have a follow-up question coming out of Headquarters.

QUESTIONER: Can you tell us a little bit about doing the inspection without this ISS there for the crew to take photos from will entail?

COMMANDER ALTMAN: I think that was directed to Megan as the arm operator.

MS. McARTHUR: You were interested in learning about inspection, the inspection capabilities that we will have when we are not at the Space Station. We will carry the orbiter boom sensor system, which has a package on it that we will use to inspect the various areas on the orbiter that we would be concerned about. We will carry that capability with us, and it is not a requirement to be at the Space Station in order to do that type of inspection.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Megan. Now we are going to go to the Goddard Space Flight Center for a single reporter there.

QUESTIONER: This is Alan Boyle with

I just wanted to get straight in my own mind how the spacewalks were going to be organized. I assume there are two teams of spacewalkers, and are they going to have the experienced folks divvied up, so that they are on the two teams, or have you gotten that far?

COMMANDER ALTMAN: I think you have basically just encapsulated about the point that we are at, at the moment. You can make those assumptions. There will be two teams, and we will split the experience, and we will figure out which will go to which team and who exactly is on each team. Anything more than that, I will defer to my EVA leads.

DR. GRUNSFELD: Scooter, you hit it exactly. I think the bigger perspective is we have five EVAs on this flight that are planned. Each one is currently full of tasks. I am sure you had a good briefing from the folks there at Goddard, but we are going to put in three new rate sensor units which have six gyros total. We are going to change out the batteries. We are going to put a new Wide Field Camera in, which is the camera that really — this new Wide Field Camera is going to be incredible. It can see in colors that the human eye can’t see, and it is really going to be the tool that allows us to see deeper into the universe than Hubble has ever been able to see before.

We are putting in, as you know, the Cosmic Origin Spectrograph which, as Mike said, is one of these large refrigerator-size instruments, and then we are going to replace a fine guidance sensor, which is one of the things that makes Hubble so good, that it can point so great and then repair the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph.

There are a few other tasks in terms of the outer insulation on the telescope that will give it a little bit longer life, but that is a lot of stuff to put on the plate, and we will do that with five EVAs.

Mike and I will be split on different teams, so that the experience is spread out, and as Scooter said, that is about as far as we have gotten.

MODERATOR: All right. That will complete the questions from outside JSC. We will come back here to


QUESTIONER: Gina Sunseri, ABC News, for Drew.

You have got kind of a long history of tinkering in your garage. So I think you are going to give a lot of hope to every other kid who is out there tinkering in their garage that this too could be a career path for them.

So tell me how that tinkering will translate into working on Hubble. Is there a lot of difference between a Jaguar and a Hubble?

DR. FEUSTEL: Yeah. There is a tremendous amount of difference, but for me, the key is just familiarity with tools and working with tools, and I think that for all the folks that do EVAs and work on EVAs on Space Station or Hubble, what is critical to performing those successfully is having that experience and some of that background, some familiarity to work with those tools.

Much of what we do is like working in the garage, at least that is the way I see it. In fact, every time I am in the garage, I think of it as currency training. We do a lot of training in sims here at JSC and everywhere else, flying and whatnot, but when I am in the garage, that is my currency training. So it is a good excuse that I can provide to my family for a reason to go into the garage and work, but other than that, that is really the key.

All the folks that are on this mission are very skilled at EVA type of work, and I think it is going to be an outstanding opportunity for all of us to do some great things to Hubble. So I am looking forward to that.

DR. GRUNSFELD: On every Hubble servicing mission, the tool development is really crucial because when we are up there, we can’t exactly call down and say, “Hey, can you send a new tool? This one doesn’t work.” So the tool development is really crucial.

At least on the last couple of flights, one of the best sources of inspiration for new tools is to go to the hardware store and see what’s current. So I have used that as an opportunity to stock my garage, and I am sure Drew will do the same on this mission.


MODERATOR: Go ahead, Mark.

QUESTIONER: Mark Carreau from the Houston Chronicle. I have a couple. I guess for Scott Altman, I am visualizing the inside of the Shuttle crew cabin. There’s seven of you, and you have to plan for the possibility of almost a month. Where are you going to put all of the tools that you are going to bring on this mission versus the supplies you might need to stay that long?

COMMANDER ALTMAN: It is a challenge, the packaging challenge. I look back at the last mission on Columbia servicing Hubble and how packed the mid deck would get from time to time. We actually on the flight deck looked forward to the spacewalks because that meant two people were outside and not taking up so much space, and it was always with a little bit of reluctance that we opened a hatch to let them back in, but we did every time, Mike and John.


MR. MASSIMINO: I think I knew that. COMMANDER ALTMAN: So on this flight, though, you are right. There is an additional challenge we didn’t have before with the additional supplies, LiOH to scrub the atmosphere, food for us to survive on, but we also have the benefit of now having an external airlock, which gives us a little bit more internal room. Some of the supplies, we need them later, we will be able to use one of our EVAs to go get them.

So I think we have a lot of work ahead of us on the final packaging, but it looks like it is all doable to keep us up for nearly a month.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

I had a question for anybody that this might grab, but I am wondering how this mission and the mission of Hubble overall, how you all might see that fitting into NASA’s new exploration mission. Is there a bridge there? Is there something that your mission and the role of the Hubble Space Telescope in studying the universe sort of tie that together? Does that grab anybody for something?

COMMANDER ALTMAN: Well, I would like to get that from a couple of folks.

Drew, you have been working exploration for quite a while now at different things, the desert rats and different suit things, NEEMO. I would be interesting in hearing your thoughts, and, John, I am sure you have some comments as well.

DR. FEUSTEL: I guess I can just start by saying what interested me this morning when we heard the briefings at Goddard was what Ed Weiler talked about Hubble bridging the gap looking out into the beyond, and as he said, you know, the Moon is very close, Mars is a bit farther away, but it is that beyond stuff that I think Hubble really gives us.

In my mind, in considering all of this and thinking about Hubble over the last few months with the development work that we did originally, what has impressed me the most about Hubble is all of the information that is returned to us about the universe, and it is the one piece of scientific instrumentation that we have that really provides some key insight into what is really out there, what is out in the beyond.

In that sense, I think that is where we get the biggest return from it and will continue to until its eventual retirement.

DR. GRUNSFELD: In the original vision that the President elucidated for NASA, the beyond played a big role, and in part, it was to search for Earth-like planets outside our solar system that is part of the really big question of are we alone, and Hubble is a part of that.

Hubble, I think is a part of returning to flight, as Mike Griffin announced today. Hubble is about returning the Shuttle to flight. It is one of the best marriages of human space flight and the science program, but Hubble is just one of the constellation of NASA satellites and spacecraft that is dedicated to science.

What is so remarkable about Hubble is it makes discoveries on its own, but it also makes discovery in concert with the Spitzer Observatory, the Chandra Observatory. Hubble is continuing to make discoveries in concert with our constellation of spacecraft around Mars, and the story on Mars just keeps getting better and better, with Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter now just about to enter its science phase from its engineering phase. I think we are going to see the Hubble and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter partnership really explode. I think the other area is, believe it or not, the Moon. For many years, we thought that the Moon was too close for Hubble to observe. If Hubble tries to look at the Moon, the Moon is moving really fast.

Well, last year, we showed that Hubble is really a great telescope and unique in its capability, especially

looking in the far ultraviolet and the ultraviolet where our eyes can’t see, to look at the Moon. So we may have opportunities there again.

In particular, with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the LCROSS Mission, we are going to have two spacecraft that are going to go into Shackleton Crater, we think Shackleton Crater, and it is going to send up a plume of material. Much like Shoemaker-Levy 9, we are going to see this plume of material, and hopefully, it will leverage the Hubble Space Telescope to look in that plume because, again, it will be uniquely able to understand what is there. One of the big questions surprisingly is, is there water on the Moon, and that is one of the objectives of that probe.

So Hubble can play some really key roles in the science areas, but also in just inspiring kids to go into science and engineering. Hubble has done that for the 16 years it has been producing wonderful science, and it is those young kids who go into science and technology that are the ones who are going to carry the vision of exploration forward. Somebody who is maybe in high school now or maybe in grade school might be the person who is inspired by some Hubble science who goes on to be a member of the first crew to step on Mars. I think that would be pretty exciting.

QUESTIONER: Robert Perlman with for Commander Altman.

In the remote possibility that you would need the Launch on Need Shuttle to come up, how exactly would that unfold? If it is known, are there going to be EVAs between the two Shuttles? Do they dock? How does that work? COMMANDER ALTMAN: Actually, there is no way for the two Shuttles to dock to each other, but the next best thing is to basically be berthed together using the robotic arm to latch onto a grapple fixture and provide basically a stiff path between the two vehicles, so that you could move the crew on a spacewalk from the stricken Shuttle onto the rescue Shuttle and then bring them home like that. It would take basically the bulk of a day to make that transfer, after a few days for the other Shuttle to get there and rendezvous with you. With one sitting on the pad, we are trying to minimize the time it takes from determination of the need to getting the crew up there and bringing them home.

So there is a technical solution that looks like it will work to provide us that Launch on Need capability for that remote opportunity.

MODERATOR: That’s it there.

Jim, go ahead, if you have one.

QUESTIONER: Jim Oberg, NBC. John, can you comment on the — there was some pressure early on to fly this mission as soon as 1 months went out, and some people wanted to fly it October, November of ’07, and that has clearly not been decided on.

Can you summarize the arguments for flying it even sooner and perhaps the reasons why they didn’t win the argument?

DR. GRUNSFELD: Well, the argument is really, simply a technical one, and there’re two sides to it, one of which is how soon can a crew get ready, how soon can we get ready, and the other side is how long will Hubble last. When we started having this discussion about servicing Hubble, the big issue was — well, there are two issues actually, but the big issue was the batteries. The belief was that by sometime in the end of 2008, some people said as early as the end of 2007, that Hubble’s batteries

would go bad, and that would be the end of Hubble.

Well, again, the really creative folks who operate the Hubble figured out what the best charging/discharge algorithm is, the best method of charging the batteries, and then also they recently finished an assessment last August of what the current battery charge is and have determined that, in fact, 2008 looks very favorable and that maybe 2009 is the time at which we start to become more concerned about the batteries.

I think the battery story in itself is a remarkable story. Those batteries were produced around a year before the launch of the Hubble. So we are talking about more than 16 years ago, and these batteries are fleet leaders in space.

I don’t know how many people trust they have any batteries that even come close to lasting that long. Usually, we are thinking about laptop batteries lasting only a few hours and for a year or so of cycle discharge, and these batteries are in space, a tough environment, and going on 16 years, and it looks like they should last another couple of years. So that pressure has been taken off.

But nevertheless, the gyros are still a story, the fine guidance sensors are still a story, and that is more related to how long does Hubble produce productive science, and in the science community, there is always a worry that once Hubble can’t produce good science, that, of course, their work stops, but also when you look towards the end of Hubble’s life, whenever that may be, you know, 2013 or 2015, that the sooner we get these new scientific instruments up, the Cosmic Origin Spectrograph and the Wide Field Camera 3, the sooner we start producing that science and the more science we will get out of it.

I think that is an important point, but certainly a second-order point. The real question is how long can Hubble go before it can’t be serviced. Related to the science instruments going up there, though, is something that we heard every time a crew is named and every time a mission is put on a manifest, that the biggest discovery that Hubble will make is the next one, and a lot of folks don’t believe that. But from the last mission, we were told that, and there was a small discussion about something called “dark energy,” which we now know is about 75 percent of the total energy content of the universe. Prior to the previous Hubble missions, nobody even knew it existed. So I think that is pretty big. I don’t know how we can top that, but I imagine there will be something.

QUESTIONER: That’s the money quote. Thank you.

MODERATOR: All right. Thank you.

That looks like that will wrap up our questions, and to close it out here, I would like to turn it over to Commander Altman for a final statement.


I just wanted to close by thanking everybody for the interest, support, and attention. It is a huge team effort, and as I have been sitting here listening to the comments, the questions, and the answers, I remembered a night when I was 10 years old and I went outside on a summer evening and looked up at the moon and realized that a person from this planet was now standing on that moon, and I also looked out at the stars that night, and I wondered what was out there, how could I go out there, and I know we are all thrilled now to be a part of the Hubble team that really does take us out to those stars and bring that home with us.

We are all just tremendously excited and thrilled to be on the team and looking forward to the work we have in front of us and making Hubble continue to be the success story that it is.

Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Scott.

In closing, I would like to recommend that you go to the NASA portal at for more information about the Hubble Mission as well as other programs of discovery and exploration. Thank you.

SpaceRef staff editor.