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Hubble-hugging astronaut Grunsfeld schedules visit to ASU


March 15, 2007

Veteran astronaut and space walker John M. Grunsfeld is sporting a new moniker these days: “Hubble Hugger.”

Grunsfeld, who is eager to begin a 2008 servicing mission to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, recently told Space.com staff writer Jeanna Bryner that he is “literally a ‘Hubble Hugger.' ”

The astrophysicist will visit ASU March 20 to deliver the annual Robert S. Dietz Lecture, presented by the School of Earth and Space Exploration. The lecture, titled “Exploring the Universe: From Low Earth Orbit to the Edge of the Cosmos,” will begin at 5 p.m. in the Physical Science Building's F wing, room 166, on the Tempe campus. It is free and open to the public. For more information, call (480) 965-5081.

Earlier this year, as Grunsfeld readied himself for a third trip to Hubble and a fifth spaceflight, a Space.com story quoted him saying that Hubble “is an icon for science … people have an idea of what Hubble does, people recognize that it's important.”

Grunsfeld is the Extra Vehicular Activity lead for the Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission-4, targeted to fly in 2008 on the space shuttle. The mission is planned to add new scientific instruments and extend the observatory's capabilities into the next decade.

Grunsfeld, a native of Chicago, earned a master's degree and doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago. He has a bachelor's degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also served as a senior research fellow at the California Institute of Technology.

Grunsfeld was selected as a NASA mission specialist in 1992. He since has flown on four space shuttle missions between 1995 and 2002 and served as NASA Chief Scientist from 2003 to 2004. His NASA research has explored X-ray and gamma-ray astronomy, high-energy cosmic ray studies, and the development of new detectors and instrumentation. Grunsfeld has studied binary pulsars and energetic X-ray and gamma ray sources using the NASA Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, X-ray astronomy satellites, radio telescopes and optical telescopes, including the NASA Hubble Space Telescope.

Grunsfeld has logged more than 45 days in space, including five spacewalks totaling 37 hours and 32 minutes. On his missions, he has rendezvoused with the Russian space station Mir to deliver supplies and exchange U.S. astronauts. In 2002, he was the payload commander responsible for upgrading the Hubble Space Telescope with a new digital camera, a new cooling system for the infrared camera, new solar arrays and a new power system.

In April 2004, Grunsfeld was a distinguished panelist at ASU in the community forum “Exploring Our Place in Space,” in which a group of space pioneers and policy-makers explored the challenges of our nation's new Vision for Space Exploration as announced by President George W. Bush.

The annual Robert S. Dietz Memorial Lecture brings distinguished speakers to ASU who work in fields most closely related to Dietz's interests: planetary science, plate tectonics, marine geology, evolution and science in society.

“Bob Dietz was a true pioneer and explorer in the Earth sciences,” says James Tyburczy, a mineral physicist and professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. “He made major contributions in three of the most significant areas of scientific thought of the 20th century: plate tectonics, planetary sciences, and science outreach and public education.”

Dietz spent nearly 20 years at ASU. He was a benefactor of the former Department of Geological Sciences and was a supporter of the department museum, donating many specimens over the years. In recognition of his contributions, ASU unveiled the Robert S. Dietz Museum of Geology in his honor.