Astronaut recalled Uncle Frank during Hubble fix

May 20, 2009 By SETH BORENSTEIN , AP Science Writer
In this image from NASA TV the crew of Shuttle Atlantis hold a news conference on the flight deck Wednesday, May 20, 2009 . Front from left, Gregory Johnson, Scott Altman and Megan McArthur. Rear from left, Andrew Feustel, John Grunsfeld, Michael Massimino and Michael Good. (AP Photo/NASA TV)

(AP) -- Sometimes all the high-tech training is nothing compared to what Uncle Frank and a big screwdriver can teach an astronaut about removing stubborn parts, even 350 miles above Earth.

During a news conference in orbit Wednesday, astronaut Mike Massimino credited a colorful relative from Long Island for showing him what a yank will do when a part just won't budge.

During five consecutive - and at times frustrating - spacewalks to repair the 19-year-old , revived two dead science instruments, installed a more powerful camera and a second , and replaced batteries, and insulation.

But the job that gave astronauts the most trouble was a stuck hand rail on Hubble's once-dead spectrograph.

Massimino was trying to unscrew a bolt on the hand rail during Sunday's . After more than an hour with no luck, NASA engineers on the ground told Massimino to just pull it off. So Massimino recalled his Uncle Frank, a balky car oil filter, a big screwdriver, and some brute force.

"Out of all the education I've had, it was thinking of my Uncle Frank and I won't tell you what he was saying," Massimino said. "I didn't use that language, but he yanked on that thing until he broke that thing free."

"That pretty much was my experience that helped me with that (spectrograph) repair," Massimino said.

Also Wednesday, Mission Control told Atlantis that its heat shield was safe for landing, but stormy weather in Florida could force Friday's landing to be rescheduled. Astronauts have started conserving power in case they have to stay in space a day or two longer.

If landing attempts are scrubbed Friday, can try again in Florida on Saturday and if that doesn't work, they have several options for a Sunday landing.

Astronauts had Wednesday off after releasing the Hubble a day earlier. They told reporters they were looking forward to coming home after the 11-day mission.

"I really can't wait to bring Atlantis home to Kennedy Space Center," Commander Scott Altman said before Mission Control alerted him about the weather.

They said their upgrades of the telescope showed how important it is to have humans and machines work together in space.

"What we've done is give Hubble five or maybe 10 more years of life," chief Hubble repairman John Grunsfeld said.

Later Wednesday, President Barack Obama was expected to make a private phone call to Atlantis.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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not rated yet May 20, 2009
Having watched NASA EVAs for years I have marveled at the granularity of their processes and the knowledge, skill, grace and humor of the astronauts executing them. So I was shocked at Mike Massimino's consistent displays of egotism, snarkiness, impatience, confusion and other boorish behavior. I confess I did not watch all 16 plus hours of his missions but the several hours I did see left me puzzled as to how NASA ended up with Mike Massimino on the end of Canada arm. I wonder, as well, how his attitudes and actions contributed to the relative success of the two EVA teams' missions.
1 / 5 (1) May 21, 2009
Massimino is a breath of fresh air and is a great role model for astronauts of the future to look to. NASA knows what the heck they are doing when they put these high profile, high risk missions together. This Hubble rebuilding mission was maybe NASA's finest moment. I don't know what your problem is peterz.
not rated yet May 23, 2009
NASA sure does know what they are doing putting the missions together and the Hubble repair mission ranks among their finest efforts. I found Massimino's demeanor and performance to be below the standard I've observed in NASA before. I suggest you watch the videos of his spacewalks. Nominally, he failed to achieve objectives on both. I'm sure NASA had their reasons for selecting him but a breath of fresh air....not so much.

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