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Time-wasting Nerd Fun

I haven’t got much done these last few days. I’ve been too busy watching the Nasa TV live feed from the Hubble servicing mission.

Hubble attached to the shuttle bay with the Earth in the background

The problems they have on a mission like this are so wonderfully groan-in-sympathy familiar: stuck bolts. Like working on old plumbing, with the same issues. They’re too professional to say it, but if I was in the control room there’d be a lot of, “Watch out! Don’t strip that thing. Omigod. You stripped it.” And so on.

Yesterday, Mike Massimino had to get at a failed power card inside the telescope. It wasn’t designed for removal, so the access plate was held down with over a hundred screws of a bunch of different sizes, which was itself behind a great big steel bar of a handhold on the surface of the telescope. The steel bar had a stuck bolt. It would not come off.

They have mockups on the ground of the same setup. Some smart tech figured out you could break the whole thing off. They showed video. The thing snapped with a bang like a rifle and shot across the room.

I love the language they use in the astronaut business. When they were going back and forth about this maneuver with Massimino on the telescope — a maneuver that could shred his suit and the telescope if it went wrong — ground Control said, “We’re a bit concerned about the stored energy in the handhold.”

One of the striking things, watching the astronauts work, is how slowly everything goes. They move slowly, slowly, slowly, like fish in glycerin. They can barely bend their hands to grasp tools because of all the pressure keeping them alive inside their suits. But when I was watching Massimino on that one space walk, everything seemed way speeded up. At first I thought they were running file footage at double speed. Then I learned he’s from New York.

And now, folks, sorry, but I have things to do. Got to watch them putting the new thermal insulation “blankets” around all that great new equipment they’ve successfully put in. As Jack Horkheimer says, “Keep looking up!” There’ll be great new Hubble pics coming out of this.

19 Responses

  1. Enjoyed this post!

  2. I too am having fun watching the work being done. It will be fantastic to get more years out of Hubble. And it’s amazing to think about people working in space like that. Just blows my mind when I think about it.

  3. Mornin’ y’all! FYI/OT, I’m up and running again. Had a glitchy link that was tripping things up. Thanks for looking out for me, I really appreciate it.

  4. We’ve had it on for three days now. My husband is quite the NASA junkie, and he’s turning me into one too! It’s amazing to me how they handle all those tools in those puffy gloves AND weightlessness!

  5. Meanwhile, over on the NYSlimes site, you’ll find even better visuals. Today’s front page features astonishing, never before seen, before and after photos from… the Hair Growth Academy.

    (BTW, isn’t Carlos Slim bald?)

  6. Probably the one big worry I had while unreservedly supporting McCain-Palin as a PUMA, was that they’d cut funding for NASA. I know both McCain and Palin independently said they’d support science education and funding, but who knows how the Republican influence machine works?

    Of course, it wasnt that the Great Mr.Hope would support NASA either (http://www.spacepolitics.com/2007/11/20/obama-cut-constellation-to-pay-for-education/)…I’m waiting to see how all this would actually play out over the next few years.

    Meanwhile, of course, other nations are moving forward too (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandrayaan; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Lunar_Exploration_Program)

  7. Cool post. Those ground control guys sound like Aussies, who always understate things (in a good way, my mates).

  8. Gotta admire those men and women that choose to leave this messed up planet…if only for a few days.

  9. I’m glad you’re having fun, quixote. For some reason, I’ve never been able to get excited about space stuff, but I enjoyed reading your post.

  10. Oh, My — that’s all we’ve been doing for days! It’s great. I think I lost the whole weekend to it.

    I love every bit of it. Watching the s.l.o.w. motion movements. And to the Astronauts chatting with each other.

  11. Is the NASA dude, eating while doing his job? Earth to space my mouth is full and munch, munch… 😯

    • I’ve wondered the same thing, and then I noticed that they have zero breaks while they’re out. As far as I can tell, they just have a tube with goo inside their helmets and that’s lunch. So he probably was talking with his mouth full! Tsk, tsk. 😉

  12. What is most impressive about these astronauts wrestling with stuck bolts is that they can apparently work without every four letter word in the universe peppering their comments. To me that is superhuman!

    If it were me up there, survivor of several encounters rusted on bolts of 60’s vintage VW Beetle mufflers, the air inside my helmet would be so blue I probably wouldn’t be able to see.

    I’m a big Hubble fan and have a galaxy-a-birthing downloaded from their web gallery as my computer wallpaper. Many times I have said to friends that if there is reincarnation I want to be an astronaut. in my next lifetime.

    • I want to be an astronaut

      Me too. When I grow up.

      (It may be some time. I’ve been growing older for a while, but so far haven’t noticed much growing up.)

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