Astronaut Drew Feustel is scheduled to fly aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery when it makes what is projected to be the final manned mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. Feustel will perform three of the five spacewalks planned for that mission.
NASA Tech Briefs: You have a Ph.D. in geological sciences and your professional career before coming to NASA involved seismology in the mining industry. How does one parlay that kind of experience into a career as an astronaut?
Drew Feustel: Well, I’m still trying to figure that one out. Most of us, as astronauts, are hired for our ability to learn new things and new techniques. Most of us also have a technical background, so we have a good understanding of how tools and hardware and equipment operate. Also, in my field, I was able to get a lot of operational field experience with seismology and the mining environment installing hardware, making repairs to hardware in the field, looking at design issues, and that sort of thing. All of those skill-sets that you would need to do that job carry over quite nicely to being an astronaut, but the actual job itself as a seismologist doesn’t correlate directly unless you look at potential missions back to the Moon and on to Mars.
NTB: You are scheduled to fly on what is proposed to be the final Space Shuttle mission to refurbish the Hubble Telescope. What will your duties be on that mission?
Feustel: I will be performing three of five spacewalks over a period of five days. Specifically I’ll be involved with replacing some of the scientific instruments on Hubble, and repairing two others.
NTB: When NASA cancelled the Hubble servicing mission planned for 2004 following the Columbia shuttle accident in 2003, and they began studying the feasibility of using robots to carry out that task, what went through your mind? Did you think you would ever get an opportunity like this?
Feustel: I wasn’t really involved in that aspect of the Hubble and Hubble repair missions. I’ve just been involved since the re-establishment of the manned repair missions. At that time in my career I was looking for an opportunity to fly on ANY shuttle mission, to the Space Station primarily. Really, when the opportunity to fly to Hubble was presented, it was gladly accepted and looked upon as a great opportunity and a great experience. But in terms of the early planning phases and the decision to go ahead and do the manned mission, I really wasn’t involved or following those decisions too closely at the time.