Status Report

STS-109 Grunsfeld Report #1 – 2 Mar 2002

By SpaceRef Editor
March 2, 2002
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The Space Shuttle Columbia sits ready on the launch pad at the Kennedy
Space Center, with a payload bay filled with the Advanced Camera for
Surveys (ACS), new solar arrays, a reaction wheel, power system
components, and a new scientific instrument cooling system for the
Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS). Our
mission, STS-109, will execute a rendezvous and capture of the Hubble
Space Telescope, five space walks to install the new hardware, and a
deployment of the Hubble. When we release the Hubble, its discovery
potential will be significantly increased, and its systems will have
been upgraded allowing it to last another decade or more, making it
almost better than a new telescope.

John Grunsfeld and STS-109 Mission Specialist Nancy Currie train in
the virtual reality lab at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
This is a mission for which I feel that I’ve trained my whole life to
perform. As I look back at my education as a physicist and
astrophysicist, my research using ground and space based telescopes,
and my adventures in the mountains of planet earth, I see many aspects
of those experiences that will help me on this mission. Going on a
space mission is much like an expedition to a remote area of planet
earth, although the ride to orbit, at eight and a half minutes, is
much shorter than most trips in the family van.

Scott Altman, a Commander in the US Navy, and an aeronautical engineer
on his third space mission, is our mission commander. The pilot is
D”Jav Carey, a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force, and also an
aeronautical engineer, on his first space mission. I am the payload
commander, responsible for the Hubble operations and the training and
execution of the five space walks, on my fourth space flight. I will
perform three of the space walks with my partner Rick Linnehan, a
veterinarian, on this his third mission. Jim Newman leads the team for
the second and fourth space walks. He is also a physicist, and is on
his fourth space mission. His partner will be Mike Massimino, a
mechanical engineer on his first flight. Rounding out the team is
flight engineer and robotic arm operator Nancy Currie, a Colonel in
the US Army and an industrial engineer, on her fourth flight.

When I started training in 1997 for the original Hubble Space
Telescope Servicing Mission 3, our plan was to replace the solar
arrays, install the ACS, the new cooling system for NICMOS, the Fine
Guidance Sensor (FGS), and some small electronics boxes to improve the
Hubble systems. However, failure of the Hubble gyros, which allow
Hubble to point precisely, required that we split the mission into two
parts, mission SM-3A, and SM-3B. In December 1999 I flew to the Hubble
Space Telescope for SM-3A/STS-103 on Space Shuttle Discovery and
installed all new gyroscopes, the FGS, a new computer, and replacement
electronics, during 3 space walks. I am thrilled to be able to return
to Hubble with a new crew and complete our original mission to
significantly enhance the science capability of the telescope.

On the STS-103 mission to the Hubble I had the opportunity to pen and
transmit dispatches to planet earth describing the team’s experiences
(STS-103 Grunsfeld Reports on the web). STS-109
promises to be a challenging and busy flight. Nevertheless, I plan to
write about our adventures with the Hubble and send them down allowing
astronomers and space fans to follow the mission. I hope that through
these dispatches I can convey a sense of the challenges we face while
on orbit and the excitement we will experience in upgrading the Hubble
Space Telescope. Of course, the real excitement will occur when the
first images from the Advanced Camera for Surveys come down from the
Hubble Space Telescope.

SpaceRef staff editor.