Space Men

A couple weeks ago I attended a NASA panel with Mercury astronaut John Glenn, Apollo 17 moon-walker Harrison Schmitt, and Space Shuttle astronaut John Grunsfeld. After the panel discussion, I got to actually step up and meet Schmitt and Grunsfeld.

NASA Panel: John Glenn, Harrison Schmitt, John Grunsfeld

Grunsfeld is probably not as famous as the other two, but he’s flown on five Shuttle missions. He’s been to the Russian Mir space station, and to the International Space Station (ISS). He’s visited the Hubble Space Telescope three times, doing eight separate space walks to perform maintenance and repairs on the telescope.

I asked something I’ve been curious about for years: did he think of the Hubble Telescope more as a thing, or as a place? Grunsfeld said that, strange as it sounded, he thought of it almost as a person. He had spent years studying the telescope, and felt it almost had a personality — perhaps the way some of us earthbound types think of our cars or our computers. He said the Mir and the ISS both felt like places.

While Schmitt took one of NASA’s most requested photographs, Blue Marble, I told Grunsfeld he deserved credit as a co-author of many of the amazing Hubble images which wouldn’t have been possible without the work he did to repair and upgrade the telescope.

Which brings us to the Boston Globe’s 2010 Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar: 25 photos, with one new photo revealed each day until Christmas. (They include links to the advent calendars from past years.)

It’s a big universe out there.