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If you like Story Musgrave's story, you might also like:
Daniel Goldin,
Paul MacCready,
John Mather,
Sally Ride,
Alan Shepard,
Donna Shirley
and Chuck Yeager

Story Musgrave's
recommended reading: Leaves of Grass

Story Musgrave also appears in the videos:
Frontiers of Exploration: From the Cell to the Solar System

Mystery of the Cosmos: Life's Place in the Universe

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Story Musgrave in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Poets & Poetry
The Cosmos

Related Links:
Space Center Houston

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Story Musgrave
Story Musgrave
Profile of Story Musgrave Biography of Story Musgrave Interview with Story Musgrave Story Musgrave Photo Gallery

Story Musgrave Interview (page: 4 / 7)

Dean of American Astronauts

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  Story Musgrave

What was the greatest challenge in fixing the Hubble?

Story Musgrave Interview Photo
Story Musgrave: The most difficult task is what's called "solar ray drive electronics replacement." You're just replacing an electronic box, but it has little connections on it, about the size of the connections on the back of your personal computer and little screws that were two or three millimeters. That had to be loosened up, and taken out to put the next box in. The tools were not captive in zero G, they would dance their way out and go floating. These two or three millimeter screws are non-captive, and simply floated out of the container. And it took at least one screw on each connector to hold the connector in.

If you see a person having extraordinary difficulty doing some job, the first thing you ask is, "Why didn't they foresee the problems and head them off ahead of time?" I had told the program months in advance that I was unable to do that job.

I had told the program, "I am unable to do that job in space," because of loose screws and the fact they were not captive. Because of that, we had come up with a set of clips in which you shove the connector down, and the little springs would come over and grab it. And so screws would not be required. A month before we went to go fly, we got the clips and they were the wrong size. We didn't have time to come up with new clips, so we had to go forward with a job which I had told them could not be done. And we went forward and did it anyway. But I was pressed for hours, right at the edge of my ability, to do it. The outcome was in doubt. And with thousands of hours in a suit, that was by far the hardest work that I've ever had to do. It was just gruesome, meticulous work.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

So when you were actually doing it, you believed that these clips weren't the right clips, but you had to do it anyway.

Story Musgrave Interview Photo
Story Musgrave: We launched without the clips, because we found out ahead of time that they were the wrong size. I launched knowing I had to do a job which I had already told the programmers was too difficult to do.

How did you feel when you knew that you had done it and it was going to be all right?

Story Musgrave: As soon as we had done some part of the job, they were incredibly good about using the work we had done to operate the telescope. The very first time they went to slue those big solar panels, they used the box I put in. So the words they came up with were, "We used your box and it's working fine" I felt very good about that. I'm such a long-term investor, I've never really let go and celebrated what I did with the Hubble telescope. Obviously, I'm incredibly glad to see the pictures that we're getting, but I never did celebrate the way people celebrate athletic victories or other accomplishments.

I think I sensed that the victory was accomplished on the ground. I look upon attacking the details, the way I worked out the choreography and the methods on the ground, not so much during flight. It really produced much more of a sense of humility in me than elation. For me, it's kind of a journey, there are not ends. I look upon that as part of the journey. I'm going to keep going and I'm going to keep doing the same thing. There really isn't a time to pause and have a celebration. I feel so serious about the whole thing. It doesn't seem appropriate to me to celebrate a victory. It's just the beauty of the work. And there's another dance tomorrow.

What is the next great frontier in space?

Story Musgrave Interview Photo
Story Musgrave: I testified about this before Congress 10 days ago. I think the next step should be low-cost, reliable access to space. Then space can happen for everybody. We have not made any progress on that in 40 years. It's the same cost now as 40 years ago. We've upgraded some of the older missiles that were military vehicles but, in over 40 years, we have not come up with a new launch vehicle, whose intent is low-cost, reliable access to space.

That should be the number one priority, and we should launch it in five years. We should have very hard standards for the timeline and the decision process. We should have names and dates. Just get on with it and do it. Once we've gotten that cost down, that will open up space to all kinds of things which it's closed off to right now.

That would democratize space in a way.

Story Musgrave: It will. If people can pay for it, all kinds of people will be doing it. At the current costs, it cannot be paid for by anyone else but the government. So it will help the government's programs, but it will also help commercial and private programs and everything else. It's the cornerstone. What energy does it take to get there? What is the cost that it takes just to get up there? That should be the number one priority.

What part of space touches people? Exploration, the reach to find out what this universe -- this cosmos -- is all about, what our place is in it. What does it mean to be us? What does it mean to be human? I think we're going to continue in that vein.

So we'll want grand observatories that will look way out there, into distant space. We'll study the earth in all different kinds of ways. How might we be different if we had been created and evolved on some other planet, or in zero-G? I think we'll see really exotic kinds of biological explorations. I think that's the long term.

You've expressed a great interest in Mars. Do you wish you could have gone to Mars?

Story Musgrave Interview Photo
Story Musgrave: I was going to Mars in 1967. I joined NASA to go to Mars. Any hand I'm dealt, I will play to the best of my ability. So I might never have gotten to fly in space, or I might have gotten the six flights that I did. At the beginning of the moon project, we were nowhere. We had no infrastructure, we had one sub-orbital 12-minute flight, the first Mercury mission. Kennedy said, "Go to the moon," and we launched the Saturn rocket the same year. There was only one year between the Mercury and Gemini programs. We'd say, "We're going to do it now," and two years later, we launched something.

The technical and scientific momentum, the courage, the risk-taking that we had then, the kinds of project management, for me it was totally reasonable to think that after 30 years of that acceleration I would be on Mars. That was the point at which I would peak out, that was my crowning mission to fly. I'd keep on going after that, but that was the one. It was reasonable to think that at that time.

Story Musgrave Interview Photo
I am a physician, and you'd want a physician on board going to Mars. I could work on physiology and life detection, all that kind of thing too. I don't regret not going there, because I tend not to regret anything. You could say, do I regret not being on Magellan's ship? I don't regret that. I lived in a certain era. This is my era: 1935 to 2000 and whatever. This is Story Musgrave's period in life.

If I'd never flown in space, I wouldn't regret that. The only thing that I could regret would be when an opportunity comes my way, when a door opens, if I did not run with that opportunity. If I'm thrown the ball of life and I don't run with it, I would regret that. Because that's a lost opportunity, not having the courage or the energy to go ahead.

Has that happened?

Story Musgrave: Oh, I fail left and right. I fail all the time, but I learn from my failures.

How have you failed?

Story Musgrave: My failures aren't that visible. But there are times when I don't execute that well. I'm a very good planner, I'm a very good strategist, but in terms of accomplishing things, there are times I fall flat. I'm not a hard taskmaster. I love myself. I'm not that tough on myself. I'm very reasonable, and I always smile at my follies, the things that don't work. I'm easy on myself in that regard. I have a sense of humor about it.

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This page last revised on Oct 14, 2010 13:56 EDT
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