NASA astronaut and alumnus John M. Grunsfeld (SB 1980, physics) returned to MIT on April 13 to discuss his recent space shuttle mission to repair the Hubble space telescope and present some MIT flags that accompanied him into space.
"The Hubble space telescope servicing mission is the holy grail of missions for an astronaut. It was almost a spiritual experience for me to be inserted into the Hubble telescope to replace the gyroscope," he said during a lecture at a physics colloquium titled "A Physicist in Space."
"The pressure was pretty high. The focus on the task was so intense that a couple of times I had to remind myself that I was really in space," he said of the repair mission (see story and photos on line in MIT Tech Talk, January 12, 2000).
Dr. Grunsfeld has been selected as payload commander for the next Hubble service mission, scheduled for launch in June 2001. The crew will install the Advanced Camera for Surveys that should provide astronomers with a major improvement in resolution over the Wide Field Camera used on Hubble.
Assistant Professor of Physics Deepto Chakrabarty, who hosted Dr. Grunsfeld's visit, worked with him at Caltech when he was a graduate student in physics and Grunsfeld was a senior research fellow.
Dr. Grunsfeld presented a triangular MIT banner flown on the mission to Dean Kim Vandiver and the UROP program staff. He later presented an MIT Nautical Association burgee (yachting flag) he carried aboard shuttle Discovery to seniors Susanna Mierau and Alan Sun, co-captains of the MIT sailing team. He participated in the MIT sailing program as an undergraduate. Dr. Grunsfeld also presented a CD flown on the mission to the MIT Chorallaries.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 26, 2000.