How Mike Massimino 'nearly broke' Hubble during a spacewalk

Illustration for article titled How Mike Massimino 'nearly broke' Hubble during a spacewalk

Space Shuttle astronaut Mike Massimino has penned a riveting article for Esquire magazine recounting his harrowing attempt to repair the Hubble Space Telescope back in 2009. His account is downright horrifying — the stuff of spacewalk nightmares.


Back in May 2009, Massimino was chosen to perform a spacewalk during an Atlantis shuttle mission.

Illustration for article titled How Mike Massimino 'nearly broke' Hubble during a spacewalk

Credit: NASA

His task was to repair an instrument that had failed — a device used to detect the atmospheres of far-off planets. But while removing the screws of a front panel, he stripped one of them:

And I realize that that handrail’s not coming off, which means I can’t get to the access panel with these 117 screws that I’ve been worrying about for five years, which means I can’t get to the power supply that failed, which means we’re not gonna be able to fix this instrument today, which means all these smart scientists can’t find life on other planets.

And I’m to blame for this.

And I could see what they would be saying in the science books of the future. This was gonna be my legacy. My children and my grandchildren would read in their classrooms: We would know if there was life on other planets, but Gabby and Daniel’s dad broke the Hubble Space Telescope, and we’ll never know.

And through this nightmare that had just begun, I looked at my buddy Bueno, next to me in his space suit, and he was there to assist in the repair but could not take over my role. He had his own responsibilities, and I was the one trained to do the now broken part of the repair. It was my job to fix this thing. I turned and looked into the cabin where my five crewmates were, and I realized nobody in there had a space suit on.

They couldn’t come out here and help me. And then I actually looked at the Earth; I looked at our planet, and I thought, There are billions of people down there, but there’s no way I’m gonna get a house call on this one. No one can help me.

I felt this deep loneliness. And it wasn’t just a Saturday-afternoon-with-a-book alone. I felt detached from the Earth. I felt that I was by myself, and everything that I knew and loved and that made me feel comfortable was far away. And then it started getting dark and cold.

Because we travel 17,500 miles an hour, ninety minutes is one lap around the Earth. So it’s forty-five minutes of sunlight and forty-five minutes of darkness. And when you enter the darkness, it is not just darkness. It’s the darkest black I have ever experienced. It’s the complete absence of light. It gets cold, and I could feel that coldness, and I could sense the darkness coming. And it just added to my loneliness.

Read the rest of Massimino's account and find out what he did next.

H/t The Planetary Society.

Top image: NASA/Reuters.