Contributors: West Virginia University Engineering Students and Student Partnership for the Advancement of Cosmic Exploration (SPACE) members Alan Didion, Cathy Lally, and Amanda Thorp
NASA Astronaut Captain Scott Altman recently spoke to a group of students at West Virginia University in a presentation entitled, “Reaching for the Stars – Servicing Hubble to Enable Exploration”. Altman, a veteran of four spaceflights, discussed the several servicing EVAs that occurred during his flights in 2002 and 2009 to service the Hubble Space Telescope. During his presentation, he shared his experiences from those spaceflights and some of the trials the crew experienced during the space walks.
Captain Scott Altman graduated from the University of Illinois in 1981 with a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering. He later pursued a master of science degree in aeronautical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1990. Altman received his Navy wings of gold in early 1983 and began flying the F-14A Tomcat. He was selected for the Navy Test Pilot School and graduated with the Test Pilot School Class 97 in 1990 according to his NASA biography. He also had the unique opportunity to fly as one of the pilots in the movie Top Gun, where he was able to fly with actor Tom Cruise. He was selected by NASA as an astronaut candidate in March 1995.
As Altman spoke to the WVU students, he expressed his enthusiasm for space flight and his excitement for its future. Altman spoke about the future of manned space flight and said that the United States has several options available to them including the Multipurpose Crew Vehicle, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, and other potential commercial means. Altman said that there are several keys to a successful mission including commitment to a common goal, preparation, teamwork and support, imagination, and good communication.
Altman discussed the importance of being ready for anything and encouraged the students to think outside of the box when problem-solving. He reminisced about a particular EVA where the crew was servicing the Hubble Space Telescope and was unable to remove a part. They had to improvise and break the part off manually to continue with the scheduled service mission. “Don’t give up after the first try,” he concluded to the audience.
“My parents always told me not to give up on my dreams,” said Altman. Scott Altman did just that – he refused to give up on his dream to become an astronaut and to “reach for the stars”. He served an essential purpose on four space missions as well as within roles back here on Earth. Altman is proud of the work he did with Hubble, or as he calls it “our way to illuminate the cosmos”, and it shows with every presentation he gives to the public. A final reminder for the students was that “space has a way of fostering international partnerships rather than driving them apart” – a sentiment that many space enthusiasts hope is not forgotten as we strive to explore more of the universe.