SM4 / STS-125 Mission Update Page 125

My personal log on this mission

May 19 2009 - Flight Day 8 (FGS, Battery, NOBLs)

Today is the last EVA (space walk) day.  We installed a new Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS), the second new Battery, and several door blankets (NOBLs).  I did not work on any of these items.
The FGS is used to lock Hubble onto a target.  Whenever a science observation is scheduled, two guide stars are selected near the target.  These are bright single stars with known locations.  When Hubble is moved to acquire a target, it looks for those bright stars, and 'locks onto' them.  It then directs its attitude control system to keep those stars in precise view.  If they should appear to move, the control system moves the vehicle to keep them in the same spot.  This is one of the reasons Hubble is so stable.  There are three FGSes on Hubble, and two have been replaced (one is still original).  Installation of the new unit encountered the same problem as WFC3: the old bolt did not want to release (seems to be a common problem), but it was handled the same way, and no further problems occurred.  The new one passed all tests.
The NOBLs are new blankets for the small doors on Hubble.  The old insulation has deteriorated due so many years of sun exposure, and this impacts the electronics inside.  One of these doors holds the data transmitter to the ground.  If this overheats, we would have a big problem.  Currently, we manage this by turning the transmitter on and off.  With all the new instruments, it would be a shame not to get the images down to the ground, so a new blanket was essential.  Our lead spacewalker, John Grunsfeld, knows this, and you could tell in last night's conference with the Flight Director, how driven he was to install all three NOBLs.  We felt great when hearing the determination in his voice.
To cut to the's space walk went extremely well.  It took John and Drew only 4 1/2 hrs to finish the two main tasks.  They were then able to install all three new blankets.  We had always planned on installing only one this day.  But their hard work allowed us to do all three.  After doing all this benefit to Hubble, John had a small accident just prior to coming back inside.  He knocked the very tip off the communications antenna this is underneath Hubble.  This was no big deal, but they installed a protective cover that we fly just for this eventuality.  While John was coming back in, he said "Sorry Mr. Hubble".  I get emotional just thinking about this.  He has done so much for Hubble, and I hope he won't beat himself up over this.  We all know how much Hubble means to John, being the only astronomer-astronaut to work on her.
Another account of this antenna event is here:
Tonight we had a few short social events in our control room at mission control.  The wives of some of the astronaut crew came in and presented us with a cake in the shape of Hubble.  It was nice sharing it with them.  We also had the traditional group photo in our control room, and I had the privilege of holding the model of Hubble in the picture.  I will have pictures of this on my mission site:
Tomorrow we will release Hubble, and say goodbye to her for the last time.  I will probably stay an extra long shift to witness that.  With that, this will be my final update of STS-125.  I have enjoyed writing them for you, and I really hope you have enjoyed reading them.  I am pretty tired of these shifts, and ready to go home, but I know that after a few days there, I will look back at this whole mission, and realize how much I wish I could do it again.
I won't miss:
- the long hours
- travel away from home
But I will miss:
- coming to work and seeing the Shuttle everyday on the drive in.
- the excitement I felt these past few months and during my time at KSC.
- having the badging to be able to go into the Orbiter any time I wanted to.
- having lunch or dinner with my work buddies every day.
- the quiet times at Mission Control when I can write these notes.
- the busy times at Mission Control when I am trying to solve 2, 3 problems and listening to the loops at the same time.
I look forward to our meeting in the coming months.  All the best to you.
This and past updates here:

Sent: May 18, 2009 - End of Flight Day 7 (STIS Repair)

Today we performed the repair of the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS).  I did not work on this hardware.  We were also intending to install a replacement shell on one of the small doors.  These are called NOBLs ("nobels").
Yesterday, we repaired ACS, which included the removal of 32 little screws.  Well today, we repaired STIS.  Doing that required the removal of 111 screws of three types!  Doing these repairs were considered a crazy idea when these instruments failed, but we gradually found that "yes" we can do this little job, then that little job, and before you knew it, we realized we could do the whole thing.
But before we could got to the lid, we had to remove a handle bar on the outside shell of the instrument.  Recall that this science instrument was never intended to be repaired in space.  Well the crew removed three of the four screws, but....the fourth one was damaged, and would not turn!  After one and a half hours of trying various things, the crew considered just pulling the bar off, and breaking the screw.  By then, several of our colleques had replicated this condition on the ground in one of our machine shops and found that it took 60 lbs of pull force to snap the bolt by pulling the long handle.  Here in Houston, we saw the video of the guys doing this back home in Maryland, and saw the spectacular result of the bar flying around the machine shop once it was loose.  We all wondered if crew safety would let us do it.
We had Mike Massimino doing the task (nicknamed "Mass").  He is a very tall and strong guy, so he was up to the task.  Unfortunately, we did not have a video link, so we never got the video.  He pulled the handle off, and we were able to proceed.  That was another one of those unbelievable moments of this mission were they just did what had to be done.  He then placed a special plate on top of the cover of the instrument.  This plate is extra thick with little Lexan compartments.  A thin tool can be used to loosen the screws of the lid, but they would be captured in this Lexan shell.
Once all those screws and the lid was removed, Mass brought it close to his helmet camera, and it was breathtaking to see all those little screws and washers floating around in each of their little Lexan cells.  They looked like little fish swimming around in their little bowls.  Ordinarily such a sight in space would be a nightmare were it not for them being contained.  One of my coworkers describes it best.  He said that they looked like a bunch of angry bees.  OMG, if they ever got out!
Here is another account of this event:
In a previous update, I described the voice 'loops' that we use to communicate with each other.  The most exclusive of these is A/G, or Air-to-Ground.  This is what Houston uses to talk to the crew in space.  The only person that is normally permitted to talk from the ground is called "Capcom" (captain of communications).  This person is always an astronaut.  He represents the crew's interest on the ground, and he sits right next to the Flight Director ("Flight" from Apollo 13).  Any of us is allowed to listen to monitor this loop.  Well tonight, we were privy to an unusual event.  Flight talked directly to the astronaut crew in a strategy session for tomorrow, the final space walk day at Hubble.  It was a very candid talk, and we felt the great relationship they have with each other.
So far, all of our space walks have been very successful.  It is a testament to my coworkers that all the hardware has electrically and mechanically fit and functioned without problems.  Of course, the astronaut crew deserves credit too, but there are thousands of unseen people on the ground that designed, built, tested and prepared the hardware over the course of years to get to this point.  We now have two amazing imaging instruments, half a set of new batteries, new gyros, a new spectrograph, and other smaller items installed and tested.  Soon (tonight) we will find out about the second spectrograph repaired today.  Hubble is already the most powerful it has ever, ever been, and we have one more day to go.
This and past updates here:

Sent: May 17, 2009 - End of Flight Day 6 (Installation of COS and ACS-R)

Today went extraordinarily well.  We installed the Cosmic Origins Spectograph (COS) and performed the first ever repair of a Science Instrument in space.  I worked on the latter item.
Other than the dazzling pictures that cameras such as WFC3 and ACS produce, a second type of science instrument analyzes the spectrum of light (or color) that is produced by an astronomical target.  Color is very useful for the science aspect as it can tell us the distance to an object (by the red shift), the makeup of a star (by the spectral lines), and other nitty gritty details.  COS is the new spectrograph that was installed today that will perform those functions on a world-class level.
The companion imaging camera to WFC3 is Advanced Camera for Surveys.  While WFC3 is used to make detailed images, ACS is used to cover wide patches of sky for surveys.  This camera stopped working last year, and NASA decided to try and repair it in space.  This involves cutting open its lid, removing 32 screws, removing an internal cover, removing four circuit boards, and installing a new circuit board module.  One part of this new module is a custom chip that I designed for this system.  It essentially 'joins' the old circuitry in the existing science instrument with the new part that we are adding. 
As I mentioned before, such a daring set of operations have never been performed before in space.  One big problem is the 32 screws and washers that hold the lid.  It would be very dangerous to have small metal parts floating around in Hubble.  My team mates figured out a clever system of lifting the lid along with all the screws in a combined assembly.  They also developed a new power tool that is the equivalent of a small power drill that is used to remove the screws.  As I watched today, I was simply amazed at how smoothly it went.  It was so strange seeing circuit boards being removed by astronauts.  They usually never handle components such as these. 
We spent the evening running tests on the two instruments, and so far it is looking good.  We did have one problem on ACS, and I had to go work that one, but we were able to resolve it, and the tests have resumed.  We will not complete all the tests until my shift ends.
Speaking of shifts, these twelve hour stints are not easy, and I am starting to look forward to when Hubble is released.  I will be glad to go home then.
Another account of this repair:
This and past updates here:

Sent: May 16, 2009 - End of Flight Day 5 (Installation of RSUs and Battery 1)

On this day we installed new gyros and the first of two Batteries.  I worked on neither of these items, but of course I still have a big stake in their success.
The first item was the three new gyro modules.  Each are the same design as the mechanical ones from the 70s, and they are STILL the best you can make today.  Not even fancy laser ring gyros that have been built since then come close to their performance for sensitivity and low noise.  The gyros are so good that they allow Hubble to point to the accuracy of a dime that has been placed on the Empire State Building in New York City when viewed from a building in Los Angeles.  Since Hubble can stare so steadily, it can perform very long exposures.  We are all familiar with our digital cameras today.  They commonly perform exposures as long as a 1/60 of a second.  Any longer, and the photo may blur because the image on the camera chip will move around.  Well Hubble can perform exposures lasting hours and hours, even days.  During this time, the light of the star needs to hit the same pixel every time, or there will be blurring.  Doing these ultra long exposures helps to image the ultra faint and distant formations that Hubble is so famous for.
The second item is one of two new battery modules.  The batteries on Hubble are the original ones, and they have been in space for 18 years now.  They are the longest lasting batteries of their kind in space.  We are replacing them of the same type of batteries, which is Nickel-Hydrogen.  Hubble takes about 90 minutes to go around the Earth.  Of this time, it spends 30 minutes in its shadow.  During this time, it runs on these batteries.  The life of any battery is measured in terms of their charge and discharge cycles, and these have seen over 100,000 cycles by now.  They have served us well, and it is time to change them.
Just as the day before, the installation of the gyros encountered a problem.  One of the modules did not fit into its intended location.  However, we brought four along (one spare).  The funny story is that this spare has flown on every mission, but it has never gotten installed (the spare has never been needed).  We effectionately call this one our "Hangar Queen".  It now finally gets to be the bride after being the bridesmaid for so many missions.   The one that did not fit, serial number 1007, has historically had the best performance.  The astronaut crew nicknamed it "double-0-7" (aka James Bond) for that reason.  It now gets to come back home and spend the rest of time in the Smithsonian museum.
Another problem came up in closing the big main doors to Hubble, but they finally figured it out, and got them closed.  These doors' very important function is to seal out the light, and to give the outer skin structural integrity.  After that task, the battery task went quite smoothly. 
Normally, the two spacewalkers spend six and one half hours outside.  However, due to the previously mentioned problems, they spent seven and a half hours outside.  To not impact the resting time, our Commander Scott Altman (nicknamed Scooter) decided to lengthen the day to 25 hours.  The ability to do this is is a neat artifact of going around the Earth 16 times a day.  One's workday need not observe sunrise or sunset.  The day's length is kind of arbitrary.  They will simply be getting up an hour later than originally planned.  The impact to us is that our shift needs to work one hour longer, and our shift times shift later by one hour.  At some point we may undo this change before the end of mission.
Tomorrow will be a historic day.  We will attempt and complete the first ever repair of a science camera in space.  It will involve opening up one of the cameras (called ACS), even cutting its removing some circuit boards, and inserting new ones.  One of these boards has a central controller chip that I custom designed for this repair.  Once this camera is repaired, it will form a mighty twin with WFC3 (installed last night).  The two cameras compliment each other, and together will provide for unmatched science gathering capability.
Time to catch up on e-mails.  Thanks for sending them to me!
Neat photo of Hubble and Shuttle transiting in front of the Sun:
Video of astronauts installing WFC3:
This and past updates here:

Sent: May 15, 2009 - End of Flight Day 4 (Installation of WFC3 and SIC&DH)

Today we had our first day with spacewalks.  EVA Day 1 (Extra-Vehicular Activity Day 1).  On this day, we installed WFC3 and SIC&DH.
WFC3 stands for Wide Field Camera 3.  It will be the next premier imaging instrument for Hubble.  Compared to the one it is replacing (which has only about 2.5Megapixels), the new camera will have 16Megapixels.  More importantly, it can see a wider range of colors, from infrared to ultraviolet.  It will be like opening our eyes for the first time to colors and details we have never seen.  This instrument has been in the making for more than 8 years.
The SIC&DH is the science data computer that failed last year, and caused the delay in the mission.  At the time, we switched to the backup unit that had been in space for 18 years waiting for its turn.  However, NASA management decided we would not risk another failure that would render Hubble completely useless as a science instrument. 
I happen to be Electrical Lead on both of these items, and they were on the first EVA day due to their priority.  WFC3 was first.  Well, it did not go smoothly.  We had major problems getting the old instrument (WFPC2) out.  To remove the instrument, the astronauts needed to turn one bolt.  Well it did not turn at all!  They kept having to change tools to apply more and more torque.  It got to the point where they could snap the bolt in half by applying more than 50 ft-lbs of torque.  If that occurred, we would never be able to remove the old instrument to put in the new one.  This was extremely harrowing (to say the least). 
Due to my shift schedule, I watched this all unfold in my hotel room.  I had access to the live TV from space, and was communicated with my team mates via a chat program.  While this was all unfolding, we were all getting very anxious, including me.  When all options were exhausted, and the astronaut approached with the big wrench, we were all hoping for the best.  When Drew Fuestel finally turned the bolt, and it turned, we did not know if the bolt broke or not.  He then reported to our relief that he said that it felt like it was turning, and not broken!  There was applause in the control rooms back home in Maryland and in Texas.  Prior to that, I could not believe that this was happening.  After years of work, and careful planning, a single bolt almost caused it all to go to waste.  So far, our tests of the new camera are good.  The tests will continue through the night.
In looking for images of the installed WFC3, I found some really great images of the ARUBA box, and put them on my site below:
There is a good account of the words spoken during the WFC3 installation here:
Rosalie, a reporter from Aruba, found the NASA video with the interview with Agnes. 
Here it is:
She is at 2:13.  Interest is high in Aruba, no doubt fed by individuals such as Rosalie.  Thank you!
This and past updates here:

Sent: May 14, 2009 - End of Flight Day 3 (Rendez Vous with Hubble)

This is the end of our third day in space.  On this day, we flew to Hubble and fastened her into the Cargo Bay of the Shuttle.  This process is called "Rendez Vous".  It is a common phrase in space flight.
I would compare the process of doing this to be similar to boarding a speeding merry-go-round at a particular horse.  Hubble travels at around 18,000 mph to stay in orbit around the earth.  Without this speed, any spacecraft would plummet back down to the ground due to the Earth's gravity.  Our task is to arrive at the horse called Hubble, while minimizing the amount of fuel it takes.  We do not want to overshoot Hubble, nor fall short.  The more fuel we save the better.  To do this, we need to launch at a particular time of day, and slowly creep up to Hubble.  We do this while firing the rockets on the Shuttle. 
Prior to that, Hubble has been prepared to stop its science program, and told to simply stay very still.  Shuttle then arrives and plucks Hubble out of its orbit using the robot arm, and it is then fastened to one of the carriers that are inside the Cargo Bay of the Shuttle.  One tricky part is that we need to tell Hubble to stop holding still once she is grabbed because once the Shuttle robot arm moves Hubble around, she will try and counteract that action.  This will cause the two space craft's attitude control system to fight each other.  So once Hubble is grabbed, we quickly command her to "free drift".
Well we have done this four times flawlessly before in past visits, but this time we had a hickup in the communication system between Hubble and Shuttle, and we could not tell if Hubble was in free drift.  What followed were some tense moments.  Since I worked on the communication system, I was called into work early.  In the end, we found the problem, and the entire Rendez Vous was successful.  We now have Hubble back in the bay, and ready for tomorrow's first space walk.  Per the plan, the two highest priorities will be performed first.  They will be the Wide Field Camera 3 (which I spent 8 years building), and the Science Data Computer (which held up the mission since October, and I worked also).  The next day should be very, very exciting, and I will grab lots of images for my site.
The rest of tonight we spent surveying Hubble by camera to see if any damage has occurred on its surface over the past seven years.  It is possible to have a hole shot into the outer skin and not know it.  A few flights ago, we were surprised to see a clean round hole shot into our high-gain antenna (a satelite dish).
By the way, before leaving work yesterday, I found out from a coworker that he saw my beautiful bride on NASA TV yesterday.  She had been interviewed by them at a party before the launch, and the interview aired on NASA TV.  I will try and find it online.  After Florida, Agnes and the kids are back home following the mission.  She spoke very eloquently about our excitement at the launch site.
I have enjoyed all your e-mails.  Thanks for them!

Sent: May 13, 2009 - End of Flight Day 2 (Shuttle Checkout)

I arrived at the Johnson Space Center (JSC), and checked into my hotel.  My shift is from 3pm to 3am, so I went to work after some lunch.  The Shuttle has not arrived near Hubble yet, so it is quiet in our control center.  There are three Flight Control Rooms here, and this is where NASA personnel monitor the mission from the ground.  These three are named after their color: Red, White and Blue.  The Hubble team is assigned the Blue Flight Control Room (BFCR).  The Shuttle is controlled from the White one.  It is the one you see on TV all the time.  The Red one is used only for emergencies.

Here is a picture of our control room at the bottom of this page:

We work at our consoles, and monitor screens for data and listen on headsets.  The Shuttle data is on the built-in consoles, and we have been trained how to use those in previous training simulations.  The Hubble data is on separate smaller desktops and our laptops.  We are used to seeing those from back home.  We also have really big screens in front to see the big map (shows where Hubble, Shuttle, the comm satelite footprints, day/night line is), and also another screen that changes depending on what we are doing. 

We listen to voice channels called 'loops'.  We usually monitor several loops at once.  Although anyone may listen to any loop, who is allowed to speak on each one follows a strict protocol.  For example, the top person in command of the entire mission is the Flight Director.  This position was made famous during Apollo 13 by Gene Kranz (whom I met him a few years ago).  The Flight Director (abbreviated "Flight") has his own loop, and only the top level people speak on that one.  Monitoring this loop allows you to know what is going on at the highest level.  One of the persons on this loop is "Payload".  He/she represents the hardware being flown that mission.  Payload has a loop of his own where his subordinates use to communicate with him.  One of the persons allowed to talk on this loop is "Servicing Mission Manager".  This person is the top Hubble person in the hierarchy.  I am part of "Systems", and I use a fourth level loop to communicate with my subordinates. 

To start a conversation, a person says three words.  The first word is the party they want to reach.  The second word is who they are themselves, and the third is the name of the loop they want to use.  Of course they do this on a loop that the intended person is expected to monitor.  This way, a person can listen to several conversations at once, and just follow them lightly.  If they hear their call sign mentioned, they can find out who is looking for them, and which loop to "punch up" to respond.  All these simultaneous conversations is controlled from the panel with the yellow display in the image.  It sounds complicated, but with training, you can do it smoothly.

We install WFC3 on the next shift after me.  That should be very exciting.

Sent: May 11, 2009 - Flight Day 1 (Launch Day)

It has been 7 years since I saw a Shuttle launch, and it is just amazing!
We had a good view from the Causeway, and we were looking straight down the tail of the Orbiter.  We could see the entire stack, including the MLP, and the flame trench.
Upon ignition, you only see the big white cloud of exhaust, but slowly the Shuttle rises above it.  Then, the exhaust flames come into view as a super BRIGHT flash.  The crowd erupts with this reveal with spontaneous emotion and cheering.  The Shuttle continues to climb silently and steadily with a bright red rooster tail.
Once the Shuttle is about 40 degrees in elevation, the sound finally hits you.  It is like a raucous, rattle that shakes your body.  From 6 miles away, you can sense its POWER.  The main engines and the solids shall not be denied.
Unexpectedly, I shed major tears.  I will never see my WFC3 instrument again.  I feel like a parent sending his child into the world to do its intended thing, never to see it again.  I worked on this instrument for 8 years.  I know every connector, cable, box, pin and wire tie.
My last Shuttle mission, and I shall miss KSC, the Shuttle, and everything about it.
Now it is time to go to Houston, and set to work on Hubble.  I will post updates.

Sent: May 9, 2009

It has been several months since my previous launch update in October 2008, and a lot has happened since then.
About two weeks before our previous launch, we had a malfunction on Hubble in space.  The central science instrument computer failed.  Without this unit, we would be unable to do any science observations.  The original unit had been operating flawlessly for 18 years since the release of Hubble.  We switched over to the backup unit, but conversations started immediately on what to do about this problem.  The NASA Administrator decided that it was not acceptable to leave Hubble without a backup, and the mission was put on hold.  This decision stunned many at the time (including the astronauts that would fly, and myself), but it has proven to be the absolutely correct response now that we can look back on it.
It has been 7 months since then, and we are back at Kennedy on the doorstep of another launch.  In that time, my team members and I have prepared a replacement science data computer that will be installed by astronauts. I have spent almost two months here by now, and Agnes and the kids have joined me since last night, as well as a small film crew with Jan Poets from Aruba.  Many of the other family members are arriving over the next few days, and there will be many launch parties held and attended during that time.  We are all very excited.  Launch is on May 11 at 2:01pm.  After that, Agnes and the kids travel back to Maryland for school, and I head to the Johnson Space Center in Texas to provide support during the mission.
This will be our final visit to Hubble, and my final Shuttle mission.  As I have been visiting these facilities here for the final time these past few days, I do so with a sense of bittersweet happiness.  It has been a great privilege to be part of this team, and to have access to these facilities, and my team members and I have enjoyed our work.  Many of us cannot help but feel that this will be the highpoint of our careers and our personal experiences.
The attached image shows me inside the crew cabin of the Space Shuttle Atlantis while she is sitting on Pad 39A ready for launch.  The helmet of the space suit is in front of me, and the space suit itself is on my right.

Sent: October 2, 2008

Last Sunday, I was about to board a plane to fly back to Orlando when I was called to return to the Goddard control center.  An unprecedented failure occurred on Hubble, only two weeks before our planned mission.  The failure was in the science data handling computer.  Without this, we will not lose control of Hubble, but we cannot do any science.
There is a backup unit on Hubble, but that has not been powered up while Hubble has been in space.  It is our policy to test the hardware rigorously on the ground, but once in space, we power up the primary side, and do not switch to the backup until there is a problem.  That initial power up on the primary side occurred 18 years ago.  Since then the backup has been dormant.
With only one science handling computer, NASA management at Head Quarters in DC decided to delay the mission.  It was a breathtaking 24 hours.  On Sunday, we realized the problem, on Monday night we knew we were not launching until Spring 09.  I have never seen NASA move so fast.  The Administrator of NASA showed his commitment to long Hubble life by saying that we would not leave Hubble with just one working science computer.
So I will be joining the effort to prepare a new pair of science computers.  We have a set on the ground, but they too have not been used in many years.  It will take a lot of effort on our part to get them ready in just 4 months.
Last night, I met with some coworkers at dinner, and many knew this was their last night in Florida until we return for the launch.  There was a certain amount of sadness amongst us.  Today, I have one last shift in the Orbiter crew cabin, and then I get on a flight home.  I realize what a privilege it is to work here in the Shuttle crew cabin.  Most NASA employees do not even see the Shuttle up close.  Even fewer are able to enter the crew cabin.  I will enjoy this final day inside.

Sent: September 2, 2008  
The results of my launch poll are in, and at this point, the numbers in my party have dropped considerably, no doubt due to the uncertainties of the launch and the situation with the tickets.  At this point, we are down to 12 people.  They are the Dennis family, Lim family, and the four of us.  I have been able to get Jan Poets a press pass, so he will be at a different site than us.
We have returned home to Maryland to start school.  It is nice to be back in the normal routine after so many weeks away.  Agnes was able to see Roland get married, and she took the kids along.  I stayed behind at KSC, and entertained Hurricane Fay for a few days.  She caused the whole team to be hunkered down in our hotel rooms, and there was some damage to our offices at Kennedy.  I put some images on my site to remember her by.  Now Hurricane Hannah is looking like a threat.  The Shuttle Atlantis was supposed to roll out to the pad on 8/25.  The earliest that it will now roll out is this coming Saturday 9/6.  This is a hit of almost two weeks.  I can't help but think this will delay launch as I doubt they had two weeks of padding in their schedule.  We shall see.  Officially, the Shuttle planning board will not meet until 9/22, and that is still three weeks away. 
Bottom line is that if you still want to see the launch... you can.  We are organizing a large group outside just outside the Space Center, and on the water.  This is not a bad place to see the launch.  Also, the date will most likely move a few days later.  If it does, count on the launch being at 10-11pm.  Our launch window to catch Hubble is such that the launch time moves EARLIER by half an hour, for each day the launch is slipped.  So the launch really moves in increments of 23.5 hours.
I return to Kennedy by myself next week to help with the launch preparations.  I intend to visit the Shuttle on the pad then and show you some pictures of that. has a very good page with some excellent pictures of our launch preps:
I would invite you all to visit it.  Some really cool images.  If you have any questions about any of them, please ask.  I have also updated my mission page below.

Sent: August 15, 2008
The Shuttle Requirements Review Board met yesterday and they decided to not move the launch.  So the official date stays on Oct 8, 2008. 
Another bit of not-so-good news we received is that our launch tickets situation is not good.  The Hubble Project submitted 4500 requests for launch viewing tickets inside the Space Center.  However, NASA HQ has only granted us 1000.  This is quite unexpected as we have never been restricted on the number of participants.
The best advice I can give you is to wait for the invite to arrive, and reply if you intend to attend or not as soon as you can.  This will free up the invite for another person.  Please let me know also when you get news on your end.
Sorry for the disapointing news.  Our managers are busy contacting HQ on the reason for this decision, so this may get reversed.
On my end, Agnes and the kids are in Aruba since Saturday, and I am still at KSC packing our camera for installation into the Shuttle.  It has been a real priviledge working here, and just yesterday we witnessed a test where they were moving the aerodynamic surfaces on the Orbiter.  We saw the elevons move up and down, and all the rocket thruster nozzles were moving around.  It was quite an impressive sight.  One of my coworkers shot a video, and we will put it on Youtube soon.

Sent: August 3, 2008
This past week I travelled to the Johnson Space Center in Texas for mission training.  This is where the entire team, including those doing mission support at Goddard, those here at Johnson, and the astronaut crew in a shuttle simulator perform several days of the mission in actual sequence to learn the tools and the process.  During the mission, the Hubble project works two twelve hour shifts, and mine is during "Planning Shift".  This is the time after the astronauts have done the installations, and during the time we perform tests on the new hardware.  I am assigned to this team to work out problems and troubleshoot the instruments if the data does not come back correctly.
During the mission we communicate with each other on 'voice loops'.  These are communication channels that we use across the system.  There is a tight protocol with each of these loops, and their use is part of our training.  It is during this training that Simulator Supervisors throw in problems and anomalies to test the entire team.  So we know we are being closely watched for our performance.
It turned out that for the duration of this training, Planning Shift (the shift I am on) was from 7pm to 7am.  Thus I worked at night.  We did this for three days, and it was quite difficult to stay awake during the quiet periods.  I have been sleeping a lot since then to catch up.
The biggest news I have is that launch may be 'to the left' as we say.  THERE IS 90% CHANCE THAT LAUNCH WILL MOVE TO 1AM OCTOBER 5, 2008.  This is very favorable for me personally as this is a Sunday morning, and Stephanie can attend without much problems from her school.  I will keep you informed as soon as this is official, please feel free to write me for information.
In the social area, we have been enjoying our time here in Florida.  We have gone as much as we can to the Disney Parks, an activity we enjoy, and yesterday we went to see the Blue Man Group.  It was a fabulous show of music, comedy and technology.  We also received a visit from aunty Lim, cousin Chee Chong and cousin May and their kids yesterday.  It was great seeing them.  Later this week, we travel to Fort Lauderdale to see them again, and Aggie and the kids leave for Aruba on 8/9 to witness Roland's wedding.  I will stay in Florida as the camera that I have been working on for the past 8 years will arrive in Florida for final tests on the ground, and installation into the Shuttle.  I intend to have some pictures on my site for that momentous event.
Finally, today is Christopher's birthday.  He is now a big twelve.  Happy Birthday my dear boy!
This and past launch updates at:
Info on Wide Field Camera III:

Sent: July 18, 2008

Agnes, the kids and I leave for our first family trip to Kennedy tomorrow.  We will be staying there for almost a month, and then they are travelling on to Aruba for a few weeks to attend Roland's wedding in Aruba.  I will stay on in Florida. 

We had our last review of the instrument this week, and we passed with flying colors.  It means that Wide Field Camera III, the instrument that I have been spending most of my time on, is now ready to ship to the Cape.  We are all very excited to get this fun part of the work, where we test the instrument for one last time at the Kennedy Space Center, and then insert the camera into the Space Shuttle.  I look forward to my daily drive into the center where we see the Space Shuttle on the pad.  There is nothing as thrilling as that for me.

You can continue to call us at our home number at 301-249 5844, but it will now ring in our hotel room in Florida.  My cell number is 301 518 2330.  We will be at the Residence Inn on Astronaut Blvd in Cape Canaveral.  I am including hotel information below.  It is for the Holiday Inn.  This is the hotel from where the busses depart on the day of the launch.  This date is still set for October 8 2008.

Below is the hotel information from our Logistics Manager:

  I recently visited various hotels in the Cocoa Beach area to see what kind of group rate or deal we could get.  The Holiday Inn has renovated their rooms and they showed me six on Thursday.  I also randomly picked a few room to see and they were all very nice “and clean”.  They definitely have the best pool in the area and the property is on the beach and they have a pool bar, lounge and restaurant.  There is no question that there are some newer and nicer hotels at the port but the Holiday Inn is the only property that can accommodate our launch party of 375 and will let us bring in 20 buses to transport folks to the launch site and they will let us utilize their lobby to check in for the launch.  There is a Hilton and Doubletree within walking distance of the Holiday Inn and they will let use their restaurant parking area if you’re taking the bus to the Causeways launch viewing area and staying elsewhere.

As a team effort to make your employees feel at home, we are offering this package exclusively to your October group:

We are reserving in the name of Hubble Space Center Launch Special

425 rooms per night from October 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 2008

Call the Reservation number: 1-(800)-20-OASIS and ask for the Hubble Space Center Launch Special (I KNOW—JUST DIDN’T WANT TO CHANGE ANYTHING AT THIS POINT)

Receive:  Standard Room:  $105 rate to include (1) full breakfast buffet coupon inclusive of coffee and juice, per room per day.

OTHER ROOMS AVAILABLE AT SPECIAL HUBBLE RATES Oceanfront Suites: $205- rate to include (1) full breakfast buffet coupon inclusive of coffee and juice, per room per day.

Standard Oceanfront: $155- rate to include (1) full breakfast buffet coupon inclusive of coffee and juice, per room per day.

Pool Cabana Rooms: $155- rate to include (1) full breakfast buffet coupon inclusive of coffee and juice, per room per day.

Kids Suites: $105- rate to include (1) full breakfast buffet coupon inclusive of coffee and juice, per room per day.

Villas: $205- rate to include (1) full breakfast buffet coupon inclusive of coffee and juice, per room per day.

Lofts:  $205- rate to include (1) full breakfast buffet coupon inclusive of coffee and juice, per room per day.

**Additional Welcome**
As an additional “Welcome”, we would like to offer your guests a drink with our compliments.  (1) Drink coupon will be included in the key packet.

Sent: June 17, 2008
Hi everybody,
Preparations for our launch is going well.  October 8 looks more and more firm now.

I am currently writing this from the Hubble control room, where we are running a test with the Hubble simulator that is on the ground.  All our new instruments have been hooked up to it, and we are running our commands through the system as if the astronauts have installed all the new hardware.  This is our final full-up 'big enchilada' test to make sure everything is working.

NASA has put together the official mission page of this coming servicing mission, and it is here:
On there, you can view a short video titled "Extending Hubble Vision - Packed with power".  This video describes the camera I am working on called Wide Field Camera 3, and I am one of the persons interviewed for this piece.
This video will be on the front page for a short time, and will be put into the video library afterwards.

We will be travelling to Florida for the first phase of integration with the Shuttle during the time period of July 19 to August 27.  If you find yourself in Florida, or are thinking of a Disney trip this year, please let us know and we will be happy to see you.

After that, Stephanie and Christopher have school, so we will return to Maryland.  I will travel to Kennedy as needed, but will probably return for the launch starting mid September.

Today is Aggie and Stephanie's birthday.  Stephanie is out at camp, so we will not see her until Friday.  Agnes is making cupcakes for her as a surprise.

Sent: April 11, 2008
As I mentioned in my previous note, the External Tank is the pacing item in our launch schedule, and unofficially, our date has now moved to October 8, 2008.  One website has already published this info:
It is of course still possible for it to move even later.

On another note, I wish to tell you that Agnes has joined the 2008 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.  This walk will take place over two days, and she will walk a raise money to combat Breast Cancer.  Many of you have already helped us by pledging a donation, and we invite you to consider doing so if you have not already.  Here is her site that explains how to participate, and who has participated so far:

Sent: March 25, 2008 2:10 PM
Subject: STS-125 Launch Update

It looks like our launch date will move again.  This time, it will move 'to the right'.

As I mentioned in my previous note, the mission to Hubble will not be able to rely on Space Station as a safe haven.  As a result, NASA will have the unprecedented situation of having two Space Shuttles ready to launch on both launch pads (yes, just like in the movie Armageddon).  This means that we have double the reasons for slippage.  One such reason has appeared, and it is the External Tank (ET) for the rescue shuttle.

Right now, we are hearing unofficially that our launch will not be before September 18, and the best chance is 'third week of October'.  So stay tuned, your spots should still be secure, I will update you as I hear.

One more item, if you have a better e-mail address for contact information, please send it to me.  I may need to get ahold of you quickly.

All the very best to you, and I hope to see you in Florida.

Sent: Wednesday, March 12, 2008 10:43 AM
Subject: Shuttle Launch Info
I am sending to all of you the information sheet of my launch guests. 
I hope you do not mind, as you might as well get to know each other. 
I also received request for information on what it will be like, and
where to stay.  Here is some info.

What it will be like on launch day:
If this mission is like past, it will roughly be as follows.  We will
gather about Tee-minus 6 hours in a parking lot of a local hotel in
Cocoa Beach Florida.  There will be busses lined up there, which we
will then board.  We will be given an escort into the Kennedy Space
Center, and dropped off at one of two sites for launch guests.

We need to launch the Shuttle in order to catch Hubble.  This means
that our time of launch is dependent on which day we launch.  The
launch time moves about one half hour earlier every day we slip.  This
will ensure the best propellant margins in order to catch HST.  The
current launch date is 8/28/08.  I do not know the time right now.

Current information is that our group (HST Project) will fit in the
"Banana Creek" site.  This is reserved for VIPs, and we will have the
closest viewing of any large group.  Our view will be from quite a
distance, but still better than anyone can obtain if they were to park
on the Causeway in their automobiles.  You are far enough away that
the moment of ignition will be very quiet, and you will only see a
bright flash.  Only when Shuttle climbs to about a 45 degree elevation
will the sound reach you, and it will be a crackling rumbling sound.

One unusual aspect of our mission is that we will have to have a
second 'rescue' Shuttle ready to go on the other pad.  This is because
our mission cannot rely on the Space Station as a safe haven in case
there is a problem with the Shuttle Tiles during launch.  We should be
able to see both Shuttles from the launch site.
Here is a satellite map of the area:

View Larger Map

Banana creek is the white area next to the road on the left.   The two
Shuttle launch pads are on the right (big circles).   You can see the
VAB near the bottom, where the Shuttle is assembled.
Where to stay:
We will be staying in Cocoa Beach, which is about 45 minutes East of
Orlando, and on the Atlantic Ocean.  It is South of Kennedy Space
Center, and I will be driving into it every morning.  We will most
likely stay at the Residence Inn.   However, most of you may elect to
stay in Orlando, where there are many more attractions, and only come
to Cocoa Beach on the day/morning of the launch.

Due to the delay, school schedules may be impacted.  Stephanie starts
school at August 25th.  What we actually decide will depend on how/if
the launch day moves.  I will send you more information as launch nears.
I may need to reach you quickly in the future, so if you have a better
e-mail address, please send it to me.

I hope to see you in Florida for my last Shuttle mission.

Sent: Thursday, March 06, 2008 10:53 AM
Subject: STS-125 Launch information

Another launch update.  STS-125, the last servicing mission to Hubble
has been moved to August 28 2008.  As I mentioned before, as the mission
draws nearer, I will be needing more specific information from you.  If
you would still like to reserve a spot, please send me the full names of
the members in your party, your address, and your citizenship.  Also,
the following information:

If the launch is on 8/28 would you attend?
If the launch slips 2 days, would you attend?
How many days are you willing to stay in Florida to wait for the launch?
These are questions from my management.  Remember, you can always
change your mind later.  I hope many of you will still come despite the
potential impact to school schedules.

Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2008 11:48:36 AM
Subject: STS-125 Launch

STS-122 finally launched a few days ago.  As a result, our launch date of
August 28 is looking more likely (still officially August 7 right now).  The
first of the preparations for launch guests has started, and we have been
asked how many each of us are taking to see the launch.  Up till now, my
e-mails have been background info only, but now I need to get a sense of the
number.  If you think you may want to go, let me know.  You can always
cancel.  However, you will not be able to give me a 'yes' answer later.

So far, I have Bing, Wai Yin, and Pooi Foong and their families.  Let me
know by Thursday night if you are or may be going.  No need to write me for
'no go' notifications. 

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