Handprints on Hubble An Astronaut's Story of Invention

Review :

Kathy Sullivan grew up in California with a fascination for the world around her, poring through the maps that arrived with each issue of National Geographic. The young oceanographer found herself selected into the astronaut corps in 1978, as part of the first class of astronauts selected for the Space Shuttle era and as one of the first six women ever selected. In this book, she recounts her three spaceflights but devotes the heart of the book to the Hubble Space Telescope that the shuttle Discovery deployed during her STS-31 mission in 1990. She believes that one crucial detail about Hubble deserves more recognition: the building of maintainability into its design over the years prior to its launch. Though the astronauts usually receive the bulk of the credit for human spaceflight, she gives credit to the Maintenance and Repair (M&R) team at Lockheed, the telescope contractor, for the work they did to make sure astronauts could service the vehicle while making spacewalks in orbit. These engineers inspected every inch of the school bus sized observatory, fit-checked every tool astronauts would have to use in servicing the telescope during their EVAs, and then observed the astronauts as they went about their training for those EVAs in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. The ability of astronauts to work outside the shuttle also became easier with the use of a portable foot restraint and a T-shaped pip pin to tether the tools they were working with. All of this work culminated in several successful servicing missions that have allowed Hubble to make its groundbreaking observations of the universe.

Some of the engineering details in the book may be confusing for lay readers to understand, but overall Sullivan has done a great job giving justice to the people she calls "the countless earthbound hands" who made the work of the astronauts who serviced Hubble in orbit possible. Though there are many autobiographical details in the book, she wants to give credit to other people and that is where the book really shines.


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