PostHeaderIcon Hubble 3D vs Life

I went to see the press preview of  Hubble 3D at Pacific Science Center’s Boeing IMAX Theater. It’s opening on March 19th (2010) – tickets here. Full disclosure, in case you were unaware, I am employed by Pacific Science Center but my comments here are my own.

I have been looking forward to this film for months, and I was struck by the similarity to some of what I do. So, if you will excuse the conceit, I would like to share a double story with you.


Hubble 3D is partially just plain fun: fly-throughs of actual beautiful Hubble images, three-dimensionalized by some very talented folks who worked with some very intelligent astronomers to be as accurate as possible. As much as I love Hubble images, the other part of the movie is what I enjoyed most. The story of how to fix an ailing telescope, 350 miles above the Earth’s surface. I’ll give you some hints – but go see the movie for yourself to get the full story of the repairs to Hubble.

A Day in the Life

Then there’s what I do. In November, the planetarium projector also chose to show its age. On its way down the elevator shaft it slipped the last six inches and refused to budge. This was extremely scary for all of us, and after several calls to the techs in Pennsylvania we decided we needed to winch it up.

Here’s where it gets similar to the Hubble mission. Compare these two pictures:

That’s Astronaut Mike Massimino in the center, with his head stuck up in the bowels of Hubble. Astronaut Mike Good’s  hands are in the lower right, holding a tool that looks like a drill with a long bit.

And this is me. Five feet down an elevator shaft that’s about  three-and-a-half or four feet in diameter, trying to reach down another two and a half feet to unhook a chain.

The astronauts on STS-125 had quite a lot more to contend with, they were wearing space suits, the stakes were higher, their equipment larger and more expensive, but we both succeeded through teamwork, specialized tools, perseverance, and time.


Ah, and then the equipment just seemed to fight back:

This is not the handrail that Astronaut Mike Massimino had to break off, but it looks very similar and I can’t find a photo online of the broken one.

This chain and sprocket caused a day and a half of work for several people. Arrrgh! But, we succeeded!

Specialized Tools

In order to safely remove small screws in space, and be able to manipulate power tools while wearing gloves, they developed some very specialized tools for the Hubble repair missions.

Well, we were inspired by this – but  Mark made a tool very similar, but with a slightly pointier point. Unfortunately, that tool is at the bottom of the elevator shaft now, so I can’t show you a real picture.

(Coat Hanger credit: Demion on Flickr)


This is the team, and this is their poster:
I love it.

Well, we may not have a movie poster, but we couldn’t have lifted the projector without the work of a large number of people, not the least of whom were Mark Rogers, Kim Chinn, Sarah Huschle, Chuck Hanna-Myrick, and the planetarians!

Gary Kezele made the commemorative sketch.

Want More?


STS-125 (the repair mission)

Hubble 3D in IMAX – the newest IMAX space movie.

See it in Seattle (Use this link until March 19th) (Use this link after March 19th)

~ A l i c e !

P.S. All astronaut photos are from NASA. As you might expect.

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