On Campus: Former Georgia Tech Professor Who Helped Install New Hubble Space Camera Drops By

Earlier this month, NASA astronomers unveiled the stunning first few pictures of the universe taken by the new camera installed on the Hubble Space Telescope during a shuttle mission last March. The spectacular views are the deepest and clearest pictures ever taken of the universe.

On Wednesday, May 15, one of the astronauts who installed the new Hubble camera - former Georgia Tech professor Mike Massimino - will come to campus to talk with a select group of area elementary school children, Tech students, faculty and staff.

During the presentation, Massimino, who will be dressed in his flight suit, will talk about what it was like to live in space for 10 days and perform some of the most challenging spacewalks ever attempted. He will also show a video of the mission, answer questions from the audience and hand out space ice cream, patches and pencils to the elementary students.

Massimino, a former associate professor in the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE), will also present a Georgia Tech pennant that traveled aboard the shuttle to ISyE Chair Bill Rouse.

The elementary school students are first graders from Westminster School and second and third graders from Centennial Place Elementary School. Artwork by the students depicting space exploration will be on display.

During the mission, the crew successfully upgraded the orbiting telescope with the new camera called the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The upgrade has increased the camera's efficiency tenfold.

In addition a new power unit, new solar arrays and an experimental cooling unit for an infrared camera were installed. Hubble managers say the orbiting telescope has been operating superbly since the servicing mission.

The Hubble has been in orbit for 12 years. This was the fourth mission to upgrade the telescope. NASA called the pictures the "best images of the distant universe humans have ever seen." The new camera is expected to surpass the sensitivity of the largest ground-based telescope to eventually see the very faintest objects ever recorded.

It delivers a panoramic crispness comparable to that of a wide-screen movie, containing 16 million picture elements (megapixels) per image. By comparison, digital photos from typical consumer cameras are 2 to 4 megapixels.

Among the suite of four "suitable-for-framing" science-demonstration pictures released by NASA is a stunning view of a colliding galaxy, dubbed the "Tadpole," located 420 million light-years away. Unlike textbook images of stately galaxies, the "Tadpole" -- with a long tail of stars -- captures the essence of a dynamic, restless and violent universe, looking like a runaway pinwheel firework.

The ACS images are so sharp astronomers can identify "building blocks" of galaxies, colliding galaxies and extremely distant galaxies in the field -- an exquisite sampler of galaxies.

The other pictures include a stunning collision between two spiral galaxies, dubbed "the Mice," that presage what might happen to our own Milky Way several billion years in the future when it collides with the neighboring galaxy in the constellation Andromeda.

Looking closer to home, ACS imaged the "Cone Nebula," a craggy-looking mountaintop of cold gas and dust that is a cousin to Hubble's iconic "pillars of creation" in the Eagle Nebula, photographed in 1995.

Peering into a celestial maternity ward called the M17 Swan Nebula, the ACS revealed a watercolor fantasy-world tapestry of vivid colors and glowing ridges of gas. Embedded in this crucible of star creation are embryonic planetary systems.

"This servicing mission has turned out to be an extraordinary success," said Preston Burch, Hubble Project Manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "It was the most difficult and complicated Hubble servicing mission attempted to date and our observatory came through it with flying colors."

A native of Oceanside, N.Y., Massimino, 39, lives in Houston with his wife. He graduated from H. Frank Carey High School in Franklin Square, N.Y., and received a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering with honors from Columbia University in 1984; master of science degrees in mechanical engineering and in technology and policy, the degree of mechanical engineer, and a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1988, 1990, and 1992, respectively.

A former systems engineer with IBM, Massimino received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from MIT in 1992. During graduate school, he worked with NASA in several research capacities. He was later employed by McDonnell Douglas Aerospace in Houston.

Massimino came to Georgia Tech in 1995 to teach human-machine systems engineering classes and conduct research on human-machine interfaces for space and aircraft systems in the Center for Human-Machine Systems Research. He left Georgia Tech when he was selected by NASA as an astronaut candidate in 1996.