One Astronaut’s Heart-Pounding Account of Almost Breaking the Hubble Space Telescope
His mission was to fix an instrument that could detect the atmospheres of far-off planets. One stubborn screw derailed the entire thing.
In 1984, I was a senior at Columbia and I went to see the film The Right Stuff. Furthermore, two or three things truly struck me in that motion picture. The first was the perspective out the window of John Glenn’s spaceship—the perspective of Earth, how lovely it was on the wide screen. I needed to see that view. Also, furthermore, the brotherhood between the first seven space travelers delineated in that motion picture—how they were great companions, how they stuck up for each other, how they could never disappoint each other. I needed to be a piece of an association like that.
Furthermore, it revived a childhood dream that had gone lethargic throughout the years—to be a space traveler. What’s more, I just couldn’t disregard this fantasy. I needed to seek after it. So I was sufficiently fortunate to get acknowledged to MIT.
While I was there, I began applying to NASA to end up a space traveler. I rounded out my application, and I got a letter that said they weren’t exactly intrigued. So I held up two or three years, and I sent in another application. They sent me back essentially the same letter. So I connected a third time, and this time I got a meeting, so they became more acquainted with who I was. And afterward they let me know no.
So I connected a fourth time. What’s more, on April 22, 1996, I grabbed the telephone, and it was Dave Leestma, the head of flight-team operations at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
He said, “Hey, Mike. How you doing at the beginning of today?”
I said, “I truly don’t have the foggiest idea, Dave. You’re going to need to let me know.”
He said, “Well, I believe you’re going to be quite great after this telephone call ’cause we wanna make you a astronaut.”
After thirteen years, I’m on the space transport Atlantis, going to do a space stroll on the Hubble Space Telescope. Our assignment that day was to repair an instrument that had fizzled that was utilized by researchers to recognize the airs of distant planets. Planets in other heavenly bodies could be broke down utilizing this spectrograph to check whether we may discover a planet that was Earth-like, or a planet that could bolster life. The force supply on this instrument had fizzled so it could never again be utilized.
Also, there was no simple approach to repair the instrument, since when they propelled this thing, it was fastened with an entrance board that obstructed the force supply that had fizzled. This entrance board had 117 little screws with washers, and just to avoid any unnecessary risk, they put paste on the screw strings so they could never break apart.
Be that as it may, we truly needed this capacity back, so we began working. What’s more, for a long time, we outlined a space walk and more than 100 new space devices to be utilized—at incredible citizens’ cost, a huge number of dollars; a large number of individuals took a shot at this. What’s more, my amigo Mike Good (whom we call Bueno)— he and I were going to do this space walk.
Inside was Drew Feustel, one of my closest companions. He was going to peruse me the agenda. We had polished this for quite a long time. They manufactured us our own particular practice instrument and gave us our own arrangement of apparatuses so we could rehearse in our office, in our leisure time, amid lunch, after work, on the weekends. We became like one personality. We had our own particular dialect. Presently was the day to go out and do this assignment.
The thing I was most agonized over when leaving the airtight chamber that day was my way to get to the telescope, since it was at the edge of the space transport. In the event that you look over the edge of the van, it resembles looking over a precipice, with 350 miles to go down to the planet.
There are no great handrails. Also, I’m somewhat of a major goon. What’s more, when there’s no gravity, you could go turning off into space. I knew I had a security tie that would presumably hold, yet I likewise showed some kindness that I wasn’t so certain about. I knew they would get me back; I simply wasn’t certain what they would get back on the end of the tie when they reeled me in. I was truly worried about this. I took as much time as necessary, and I overcame the slippery way to the telescope.
One of the primary things I needed to do was to expel from the telescope a handrail that was hindering the entrance board. There were two screws on the top, and they fell off effortlessly. There was one screw on the base left, and that turned out effectively. The fourth screw is not moving. My instrument is moving, however the screw is definitely not. I look carefully, and it’s stripped. I understand that that handrail’s not falling off, which implies I can’t get to the entrance board with these 117 screws that I’ve been agonizing over for a long time, which implies I can’t get to the force supply that fizzled, which means we’re not going to have the capacity to settle this instrument today, which implies all these brilliant researchers can’t discover life on different planets.
I’m to be faulted for this.
What’s more, I could see what they would say in the science books of the future. This was going to be my legacy. My kids and my grandchildren would read in their classrooms:
We would know whether there was life on different planets … however Gabby and Daniel’s father down and out the Hubble Space Telescope, and we’ll never know.
Through this bad dream had quite recently started, I took a gander at my pal Bueno, beside me in his space suit, and he was there to help with the repair yet couldn’t assume control over my part. It was my business to alter this thing. I transformed and investigated the lodge where my five crewmates were, and I understood no one in there had a space suit on. They couldn’t turn out over here and help me. And after that I really took a gander at Earth; I took a gander at our planet, and I thought, There are billions of individuals down there, however it is extremely unlikely I’m going to get a house approach this one. Nobody can help me.
I felt this profound dejection. What’s more, it wasn’t only a “Saturday evening with a book” alone. I felt … confined from Earth. I felt that I was without anyone else’s input, and everything that I knew and cherished and that made me feel good was far away. And afterward it began getting dull and icy.
Since we travel 17,500 miles 60 minutes, a hour and a half is one lap around Earth. So it’s 45 minutes of daylight and 45 minutes of dimness. What’s more, when you enter the obscurity, it is not simply murkiness. It’s the darkest dark I have ever experienced. It’s the finished absence of light. It gets chilly, and I could feel that coldness, and I could sense the dimness coming. What’s more, it just added to my forlornness.
For the following hour or somewhere in the vicinity, we attempted a wide range of things, and nothing worked. And after that they rang and said they needed me to go to the front of the van to get a tool compartment, tight clamp grasps, and tape. I thought, We are coming up short on thoughts. I didn’t know we had tape on board. I’m going to be the primary space traveler to utilize tape on a space walk.
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In any case, I got to the front of the space transport, and I opened up the tool compartment, and there was the tape. By then, I was near the front of the orbiter, right by the lodge window, and I realized that my best buddy was in there, attempting to bail me out. I couldn’t remain to consider taking a gander at him, since I felt so awful about the way this day was going, with all the work he and I had put in.
Be that as it may, through the edge of my eye, through my protective cap, only the side there, I can kinda see that he’s attempting to stand out enough to be noticed. Also, I gaze toward him, and he’s simply laughing out loud, grinning and giving me the OK sign. What’s more, I’m similar to, Is there another space walk going ahead around here? I truly can’t converse with him, in light of the fact that on the off chance that I say anything, the ground will listen. You know, Houston. The control focus. So I’m playing acts with him, similar to, What are you, nuts? What’s more, I didn’t wanna look some time recently, on the grounds that I thought he was going to give me the finger since he’s going to go down in the history books with me. In any case, he’s colloquialism, No, we’re OK. We’re going to endure this. We’re in this together. You’re doing awesome. Simply keep it together.
In the event that there was ever a period in my life that I required a companion, it was right then and there. What’s more, there was my pal, much the same as I found in that motion picture, the camaraderie of those folks staying together. I didn’t trust him by any stretch of the imagination. I assumed that we were outta good fortune. In any case, I thought, At slightest in case I’m going down, I’m running down with my best buddy.
Furthermore, as I swung to advance back over the tricky way once again, Houston rang and let us know what they had as a primary concern. They needed me to utilize that tape to tape the base of the handrail and afterward check whether I could yank it off the telescope. They said it was going to take in regards to 60 pounds of power for me.
What’s more, Drew answers the call, and he goes to me, “Sixty pounds of power? Mass, I think you got that in you. What do you think?”
What’s more, I’m similar to, “You wager, Drew. We should go get this thing.”
What’s more, Drew resembles, “Go!” And bam! That thing comes right off. I haul out my energy instrument, and now I have that get to board with those 117 minimal bitty screws with their washers and stick, and I’m prepared to get every one of them. What’s more, I force the trigger on my energy apparatus, and nothing happens. I look, and I see that the battery is dead. I turn my head to take a gander at Bueno, who’s in his space suit, again taking a gander at me like, What else can happen today?
Also, I said, “Drew, the battery’s dead in this thing. I’m going to do a reversal to the isolated space, and we’re going to swap out the battery, and I’m going to recharge my oxygen tank.” Because I was getting low on oxygen; I expected to get a refill.
The light in space, when you’re in the daylight, is the brightest, whitest, purest light I have ever experienced, and it carries with it warmth. I really began feeling hopeful.
He said, “Go.” And I was backtracking over that van, and I saw two things. One was that the misleading way that I was so scaredy-feline sissy-pants about going over—it wasn’t unnerving any longer. That over the span of those couple of hours of battling this issue, I had gone up and down that thing around 20 times, and my apprehension had left on the grounds that there was no opportunity to be a scaredy-feline; the time had come to take care of business. What we were doing was more critical than me being concerned, and it was very fun going over that little wilderness exercise center, forward and backward over the van.
The other thing I saw was that I could feel the glow of the sun. We were going to come into a day pass. What’s more, the light in space, when you’re in the daylight, is the brightest, whitest, purest light I have ever experienced, and it carries with it warmth. I could feel that coming, and I really began feeling hopeful.
Beyond any doubt enough, whatever remains of the walk went well. We got every one of those screws out, another force supply in, fastened it. They attempted it; turned it on from the beginning. The instrument returned to life. Furthermore, toward the end of that space stroll, after around eight hours, my officer says, “Hey, Mass, you know, you have around 15 minutes before Bueno’s going to be prepared to come in. Why not go outside of the airtight chamber and appreciate the perspective?”
So I go outside, take my tie, cut it on a handrail, let go, and I simply look. Furthermore, Earth—from our elevation at Hubble, we’re 350 miles up. We can see the shape. We can see the roundness of our home, our home planet. It’s the most heavenly thing I’ve ever seen. It resembles investigating paradise. It’s heaven.
Also, I thought, This is the perspective that I envisioned in that film theater each one of those years back. As I took a gander at Earth, I additionally saw that I could turn my head, and I could see the moon and the stars and the Milky Way universe. I could see our universe. I could turn back and see our lovely planet.
Furthermore, that minute changed my association with Earth. Since for me, Earth had dependably been a sort of place of refuge, you know, where I could go to work or be in my home or take my children to class. Be that as it may, I understood it truly wasn’t that. It truly is its own particular spaceship. Also, I had dependably been a space explorer. Every one of us here today, even tonight, we’re on this spaceship Earth, amongst all the tumult of the universe, whipping around the sun and around the Milky Way system.
A couple days after the fact, we get back. Also, I’m driving home to my home with my family. My better half begins letting me know that while viewing the NASA TV she identified a bitterness in my voice that she had never gotten notification from me.
Also, we turned the corner to descend our square, and I could see my neighbors were outside. They had improved my home, and there were American banners all over. What’s more, my neighbor over the road was holding a pepperoni pizza and a six-pack of brew, two things that shockingly despite everything we can’t get in space.
I escaped the auto, and they were all embracing me. I was still in my blue flight suit, and they were stating that they were so upbeat to have me back and how awesome everything turned out. I understood my companions, man, they were considering me the entire time. They were with me as well. I wish I would’ve realized that when I was up there.
The following day we had our arrival function; we made addresses. The architects who had worked every one of these years with us, our coaches, the general population that worked in the control focus, they began letting me know how they were circling like insane while I was up there in my little bad dream, supposing I was isolated.
I understood that when I felt so forlorn, when I felt disconnected from other people—truly, similar to I was far from the planet—that truly I never was separated from everyone else, that my family and my companions and the general population I worked with, the general population that I adored and the general population that thought about me, they were with me consistently.
Michael Massimino, PhD, is a veteran of two NASA space flights (STS-109 in March 2002 and STS-125 in May 2009) and has logged a sum of 571 hours, 47 minutes in space, and a combined aggregate of 30 hours, 4 minutes amid four spacewalks. An alum of Columbia University and MIT, Michael is a teacher at the Columbia University School of Engineering and is a Senior Advisor at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, and in addition a looked for after helpful speaker. Mike shows up consistently on TV news and syndicated programs, and has showed up on The Big Bang Theory six times. Take after Mike on Twitter at @Astro_mike or visit his site at www.mikemassimino.com. Mike’s up and coming diary, SPACEMAN, will be distributed by Crown Archetype October 2016.
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