Sunday, December 2, 2012

Skill, Courage and Selflessness

A little known story about the Hubble Space Telescope
by Phillip C.

The acoustic test of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was a critical and challenging effort. The acoustic chamber was located in a 175-foot high-bay facility. The satellite was eased into the facility and lifted into a vertical position with a set of huge cranes that were built into the facility. While moving the HST into the chamber very slowly to control momentum build-up, disaster struck!

Due to the very slow speed, the crane motor stopped with the billion-dollar satellite hanging 25 feet above the floor. We quickly determined the cause of the problem, but the fix had to be performed on the motor 160 feet above the floor. The problem was how to get up there without risk to the satellite.

As we discussed our options, looking up at the hanging satellite, I asked the facilities manager if he had a boatswain’s chair and if the young facilities technician (his name was Dewey) if he was afraid of heights. “No,” so up went Dewey to the crane platform in the boatswain’s chair where he installed the fix. After the fix, Dewey, still dangling 160 feet above the floor, asked if he could come down. I said “No,” not until the satellite was safely in the chamber. So there hung Dewey for 20 minutes, 160 feet above the floor.

Dewey’s skill and courage was one of the selfless actions that made the success of the Hubble Space Telescope a crowning achievement of Lockheed Martin.