NASA is taking on a special mission: a space shuttle flight to rescue the Hubble Space Telescope, whose batteries, gyroscopes and other systems might soon fail if NASA does nothing about them.
Seven astronauts plan to fly the Shuttle Atlantis to rendezvous with the Hubble later this year. Their mission has been labeled STS-125. ABC News has been given special access to them as they prepare for their flight.
Below, spacewalker Mike Massimino sends the first in an occasional series of blog posts as the crew readies.
Spacewalking is just about the coolest and most rewarding thing an astronaut can do. However it requires a lot of work to get ready to spacewalk, and that's what we've done for weeks. My spacewalking partner, Mike Good (we call him Bueno), and I will perform two spacewalks during our mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. We practiced changing out the gyroscopes (or gyros, the gizmos which point the telescope accurately) for the first time. We did this in the largest indoor pool in the world. It is 200 feet long, 100 feet wide, and 40 feet deep; its size makes it seem more like a lake.
Changing out the gyros can be difficult because it occurs in a very delicate and cramped area inside of the telescope. One false move in that area could harm the telescope and its ability to make its discoveries. For me, the most challenging time during that spacewalk will be when I go inside the telescope to connect the gyros to the telescope. To do this, I worm my way inside very carefully, and then Bueno holds me in position while I do my work as there is no way for me to control and monitor my position in such a confined area without his help. Hopefully he will not twitch or sneeze or burp or do anything that would cause him to even jiggle me because I am very close to some delicate stuff. The good news is that we found a good position and a good method to get the job done, and that was a major accomplishment. This task really exemplifies how important teamwork is on a spacewalk, as my fate is totally in Bueno's hands while he is stabilizing me during that task.
After we completed two weeks' worth of spacewalk training, I took some time to get my haircut. The lady who cut my hair was doing so for the first time. She made some interesting observations about my head. First she said: "Ooooh, a lot of gray hair." To which I said, "Yep, but at least at 45 years old I still have hair." She responded: "No, no, no, you're going bald!" "No, I am not ," I said while holding the hair in the front of my head. But she felt compelled to correct my optimism and pushed my head down and put a mirror on the back point of my head. With a death grip on my scalp and the back of my head shown in the reflection, she confirmed it with, "See, see, look right back here. … BALD SPOT!!" I immediately scheduled my next official NASA photo to be taken earlier than planned before the situation gets worse.