Hubble Repair Mission Astronaut John Grunsfeld Named to CU-Boulder Faculty

May 20, 2009

Astronaut John Grunsfeld, nearing the end of a successful NASA mission on board the space shuttle Atlantis to repair and refurbish the aging Hubble Space Telescope, has been named an adjoint professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Grunsfeld, who participated in three spacewalks during the mission -- including one to insert a $70 million instrument on the orbiting telescope designed by CU-Boulder known as the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph -- will join the university's astrophysical and planetary sciences department. Grunsfeld, who confirmed his acceptance of the CU faculty position in a space e-mail from Atlantis earlier this week, will conduct research and teach courses on manned space flight and the development and servicing of future space telescopes, according to CU-Boulder Professor Michael Shull.

Grunsfeld has now made eight spacewalks during his astronaut career, including three during the current Atlantis mission.

"John Grunsfeld is one of the finest space scientists in the nation and one of the premier astronauts to have flown on NASA space shuttles," said John Stocke of CU-Boulder's astrophysical and planetary sciences department. "We could not be more pleased to have him on board at the University of Colorado."

Grunsfeld has now participated in three NASA space shuttle missions to repair and upgrade Hubble, which was launched in 1990 and is widely considered one of NASA's greatest achievements. Grunsfeld will concentrate his research efforts at CU-Boulder on the development of the next-generation large optical and ultraviolet telescopes in space, the operations of science instruments in remote space environments and the development of a low-frequency radio telescope on the far side of the moon.

In addition to helping to install the COS on Hubble during the Atlantis mission, he also made extensive repairs on the Advanced Camera for Surveys on the orbiting telescope. Both COS and ACS were built by Ball Aerospace & Technology Corp. of Boulder.

The telephone-booth-sized COS should help scientists better understand the "cosmic web" of material believed to permeate the universe, said CU-Boulder Professor James Green of the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy, principal investigator for the instrument. COS will gather information from ultraviolet light emanating from distant objects, allowing scientists to look back several billion years and reconstruct the physical conditions and evolution of the early universe.

Grunsfeld joins former NASA astronaut Joe Tanner, who joined CU-Boulder's aerospace engineering sciences department as a senior lecturer in September 2008. Tanner has been at Johnson Space Center in Houston at the Mission Control Center helping to monitor Atlantis flight activities and advising the astronauts through the five spacewalks required to repair Hubble.

Grunsfeld received his bachelor's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his doctorate from the University of Chicago. He began astronaut training in 1992, which led to five space shuttle flights. He served as chief scientist for NASA in 2003-04, the most senior science position at the space agency.

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