Handprints on Hubble: An Astronaut's Story of Invention - Lemelson Center Studies in Invention and Innovation series (Hardback)
  • Handprints on Hubble: An Astronaut's Story of Invention - Lemelson Center Studies in Invention and Innovation series (Hardback)

Handprints on Hubble: An Astronaut's Story of Invention - Lemelson Center Studies in Invention and Innovation series (Hardback)

Hardback 304 Pages / Published: 05/11/2019
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The first American woman to walk in space recounts her experience as part of the team that launched, rescued, repaired, and maintained the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Hubble Space Telescope has revolutionized our understanding of the universe. It has, among many other achievements, revealed thousands of galaxies in what seemed to be empty patches of sky; transformed our knowledge of black holes; found dwarf planets with moons orbiting other stars; and measured precisely how fast the universe is expanding. In Handprints on Hubble, retired astronaut Kathryn Sullivan describes her work on the NASA team that made all of this possible. Sullivan, the first American woman to walk in space, recounts how she and other astronauts, engineers, and scientists launched, rescued, repaired, and maintained Hubble, the most productive observatory ever built.

Along the way, Sullivan chronicles her early life as a "Sputnik Baby," her path to NASA through oceanography, and her initiation into the space program as one of "thirty-five new guys." (She was also one of the first six women to join NASA's storied astronaut corps.) She describes in vivid detail what liftoff feels like inside a spacecraft (it's like "being in an earthquake and a fighter jet at the same time"), shows us the view from a spacewalk, and recounts the temporary grounding of the shuttle program after the Challenger disaster.
Sullivan explains that "maintainability" was designed into Hubble, and she describes the work of inventing the tools and processes that made on-orbit maintenance possible. Because in-flight repair and upgrade was part of the plan, NASA was able to fix a serious defect in Hubble's mirrors-leaving literal and metaphorical "handprints on Hubble."

Handprints on Hubble was published with the support of the MIT Press Fund for Diverse Voices.

Publisher: MIT Press Ltd
ISBN: 9780262043182
Number of pages: 304
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 22 mm


[A]n accessible and fascinating memoir of [Sullivan's] experiences as a pioneering scientist, highlighted by her work on the Hubble space telescope... Sullivan's fine volume shines a light on the nuts-and-bolts tasks that make extraordinary endeavors possible.

-Publishers Weekly, starred review

Throughout the narrative, [Sullivan's] easy hand with details and infectious enthusiasm make for a winning combination. A smooth delivery of the nit and grit behind the success of the Hubble.

-Kirkus Reviews

Handprints on Hubble is an involving, inspiring personal account of creating Hubble, the telescope that changed Earth's view of the universe.

-Foreword Reviews

An accessible, engaging read for students of engineering and the history of technology and generalist readers interested in NASA history.

-Library Journal

To read these [this book] is to marvel at what we have achieved in our nascent efforts to inhabit space, and to recognize that we have barely begun that quest.


As a ringside spectator of Challenger, Sullivan's memories are tinged by tragedy and she remained soberly aware that she might never return from a mission. Behind every scene Hubble itself looms large - "like a beautiful silver gift from Tiffany's" - whose contribution to understanding our place in the cosmos needs no qualification.

-SKY AT NIGHT Magazine

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