- The Washington Times - Friday, March 1, 2002

Dave Scheve hasn't gotten much sleep lately because his wife and children are sick.
It gets no better today.
The 46-year-old engineer is part of a group of 125 persons at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., taking part in an ambitious mission. The aim: to overhaul the Hubble Space Telescope, beginning today.
A bit like Mr. Scheve's children at home, the 11-year-old Hubble is his baby, too. And it needs attention.
"It's up there working hard, and things are going to wear out," says Mr. Scheve, deputy program manager of the Hubble Space Telescope project.
When the space shuttle Columbia takes off launch was scheduled for 6:22 a.m. today from John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida after being delayed yesterday it will begin a 12-day mission to upgrade the space agency's 12-ton telescope. It will be the fourth trip astronauts have undertaken to improve the telescope or make repairs, and the $170 million mission will be the most difficult yet.
The most famous mission was the 1993 repair of a misshapen mirror that blurred Hubble's vision. Since that correction, the telescope has provided stunning views of the edges of the universe.
In preparation for the current mission, engineers at Goddard began four years ago designing and developing the equipment that the crew of seven astronauts will haul to space and install on Hubble.
The Goddard group is the caretaker of the telescope, and once the mission begins, its members will be the unseen dance partners of the astronauts during five spacewalks. When Hubble needs to be moved, the Goddard crew will move it. When there is a question about the new parts to be installed, they will answer it.
The first step for the Goddard crew includes preparing Hubble so the Columbia crew can grab the telescope when they catch up to the orbiting observatory on Sunday. That includes retracting its antennas and sealing the telescope, no small feat because Hubble orbits the Earth at about 19,000 miles per hour.
"One of the nervous parts is that Hubble is going 19,000 miles per hour and they have to grab it, pick it up and put it in the cargo bay [without damaging it]. It's quite a dance," says Mr. Scheve, who began working at Goddard in 1990.
This will be his second Hubble servicing mission as deputy program manager on the telescope project.
Goddard's Space Telescope Operations Control Center does not regularly control Hubble. That work is left to the Space Telescope Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University. Demand among scientists who want to use Hubble is high, and the institute says which researchers can use the telescope and when.
But with the servicing mission coming up, observations by researchers have been stopped and Goddard has taken control of the device. They will control Hubble's every move during the delicate repairs. None of the manipulation is automated, and Goddard engineers will send about 10,000 commands to Hubble each day of the mission. They have rehearsed for six months to prepare themselves.
"There's no joystick," says Malcolm Niedner Jr., a 52-year old astrophysicist and deputy project scientist on the Hubble Space Telescope program.
Engineers at Goddard will be unable to talk directly to the crew members while they work in space, making the dance with the astronauts even more difficult. NASA officials at Johnson Space Center in Texas will have the only direct contact with the astronauts.
They have met, though. The crew has trained for the mission for two years and has made seven trips to examine prototypes of the 40-foot tall telescope at Goddard.
Spacewalks will take place in the dead of night, with the first walk scheduled to begin about 1:30 a.m. on Monday. Goddard's Hubble project crew will split into two shifts and work 13 hours each so they can monitor Hubble even when they aren't helping astronauts work on the device.
A pair of astronauts will replace one of Hubble's solar arrays, which collect light to power the telescope and were installed in 1993, and replace its control mechanism during the first spacewalk.
On the second walk, the second of two arrays will be replaced and astronauts will replace one of the telescope's four reaction wheel assemblies, which help to steady the device.
The third spacewalk will be the most difficult, Mr. Scheve says. Crew members will replace a power-control unit that transfers power from the solar panels to Hubble's batteries.
Astronauts will remove an obsolete camera during the fourth spacewalk and replace it with the Advanced Camera for Research (ACR), an estimated 10 times stronger than the current instrument. They will also begin to install a new cooling system.
They will finish installing the cooling system on the final walk.
Goddard engineers are teeming with enthusiasm to begin the project because it is expected to give research a boost once the new ACR is operational.
"If it works, it should provide the clearest, deepest views of the universe we've ever had," Mr. Niedner says.
That is the payoff to the group of behind-the-scene scientists and engineers at Goddard.
"There is enthusiasm because of the anticipation of what … potential Hubble will have to help science" after this mission, Mr. Scheve says.
The Goddard team simply wants a better telescope. And when this job is done, that is what they, and the scientific community, expect to have.
"When Hubble is released [after the final spacewalk], you get the most incredible sensation that you can imagine. There is nothing like it in the world when a mission ends. It's a two year buildup [the last mission was in 1999], and it's just an incredible feeling," Mr. Scheve says.
But it won't be the last. Another mission already is scheduled for 2004.
Mr. Scheve will have some time to catch up on his sleep before then.

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