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By Michael Purdy

When the space shuttle Columbia punched through the cloud cover over Cape Canaveral early on the morning of March 1, 2002, it carried aloft a new instrument. Built by a team led by Hopkins astronomy professor Holland Ford, the Advanced Camera for Surveys was designed to enhance the capabilities of the Hubble Space Telescope.

That led some Hopkins astronomy faculty and staff in Florida for the launch to pause and reflect: How many shuttle missions has Johns Hopkins made significant contributions to?

According to a few well-placed sources, the answer is 10. That's just the shuttle missions; if you include pre-shuttle manned space programs and unmanned space launches like the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer or the Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous, the numbers for significant Hopkins involvement in NASA projects get much higher.

For every shuttle flight, the central piece of memorabilia is the crew's mission patch, which is designed by one of the astronauts with input from other crew members. The patches always feature the crew members' names, and often include the shuttle and important elements of the mission, like celestial bodies or NASA probes. We've gathered shuttle crew patches from all the missions with significant Hopkins involvement.

A quick glance reveals that several of the shuttle missions with Hopkins contributions involve Hubble, whose headquarters, the Space Telescope Science Institute, is located across the street from the Bloomberg Center for Physics and Astronomy on the Homewood campus. Arthur Davidsen, a longtime Hopkins professor of astronomy who died last year, played a major role in getting the Space Telescope Science Institute established at Hopkins' Homewood campus. The fact that Davidsen was also the prime mover for Hopkins' participation in two other shuttle missions, Astro-1 and Astro-2, is a testament to his remarkable influence.

Readers will notice that the numbering system doesn't always jibe with the launch dates -- for example, STS-34 launched before STS-31. This generally happens when factors such as weather or equipment breakdown force NASA to shuffle the schedule and rearrange the launch order. Regardless of when it goes up, a mission still keeps its unique identifying number.

This was the last mission before the Challenger explosion 16 days later. 61-C-Columbia

Launched on January 12, 1986, at 6:55:00 a.m. EST

Hopkins contributions: Paul Feldman was principal investigator on the Ultraviolet Explorer (UVX), an experiment that went up on this shuttle mission.

Mission results: UVX's space-based perspective let astronomers study faint diffuse cosmic radiation and far ultraviolet emissions from Earth's atmosphere. Astronomers had also hoped to use UVX to look at Halley's comet, but delays put the comet too close to the sun for observation.

That's the Galileo probe in front of the shuttle. Jupiter appears on the right. STS-34-Atlantis

Launched on October 18, 1989, at 12:53:40 p.m. EDT

Hopkins contributions: Donald J. Williams of Hopkins' Applied Physics Lab (APL) led the team that helped build the Energetic Particle Detector (EPD) for the Galileo probe, which was boosted into orbit by this shuttle flight. Galileo then trekked out to Jupiter, where it has spent more than six years probing the solar system's largest planet and its four largest moons.

Results: Scientists used the EPD to study the huge magneto-sphere of Jupiter for new insights into the ability of planetary magnetic fields to trap highly energetic particles from the sun. APL's Barry Tossman, who helped build the EPD, speaks with pride of Galileo's ability to survive six years in the most hazardous radiation environments in the solar system. NASA's current plan to get more info on Jupiter by sending Galileo on a suicidal plunge into the upper layers of the gas giant, he jokes, is "the only way they can think of to kill" the plucky probe.

The Hubble Space Telescope appears on the right. STS-31-Discovery

Launched on April 24, 1990, at 8:33:51 a.m. EDT

Hopkins contributions: Astronauts launched the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit, and Hopkins astronomer Arthur Davidsen and future Hopkins astronomer Holland Ford (then at UCLA) were investigators on the Faint Object Spectrograph, an instrument in the telescope that analyzes light from faint distant objects like early galaxies or quasars.

Mission results: Astronomers were shocked to learn that the primary mirror on Hubble had a flaw. This delayed full usage of the telescope's remarkable abilities for three years.

The sun is very prominent on this badge; Jupiter and Earth are also visible. Jupiter is included because it gave Ulysses the gravitational boost it needed to get into a solar polar orbit. STS-41-Discovery

Launched on October 6, 1990, at 7:47:15 a.m. EDT

Hopkins contributions: APL scientist Robert Gold led a team of APL engineers who helped build an electronic particle detector for the solar probe Ulysses that was similar to the detector that had flown on Galileo. The detector helped scientists study and monitor the solar wind, a stream of particles continuously emitted by the sun. European Space Agency scientists put Ulysses into an unprecedented orbit that circled the sun's top and bottom instead of its waist.

Mission results: Ulysses is in the second cycle of its very long solar polar orbit and still helping scientists learn more about solar "weather" patterns. Changes in solar activity can create spikes in the intensity and energy of these particles that disrupt communications on Earth.

That's the constellation Orion behind the silhouetted shuttle. STS-35-Columbia (Astro-1)

Launched on December 2, 1990, at 1:49:01 a.m. EST

Hopkins contributions: Led by Davidsen, a Hopkins team built the Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope (HUT) for use aboard the shuttle to study the information-rich ultraviolet light from planets, stars, and galaxies; this light can't penetrate the Earth's atmosphere and reach ground-based telescopes. Hopkins astrophysicist Samuel Durrance joined the NASA astronaut corps, becoming a payload specialist who flew into space with HUT on this Astro-1 mission.

Mission results: Instabilities in the shuttle platform where HUT was mounted made it difficult for Davidsen to study the faint objects he was hoping to look at. He gallantly stepped aside so other investigators could make important discoveries.

Jupiter, a focus of HUT study, is featured on the right. STS-67-Endeavor (Astro-2)

Launched on March 2, 1995, at 1:38:34 a.m. EST

Hopkins contributions: Hopkins astronomers' prayers for a second flight for HUT were answered with this Astro-2 mission. Durrance returned to space with HUT, which had been tweaked to increase its sensitivity.

Mission results: Davidsen and colleagues used HUT to characterize for the first time the tenuous, elusive gas between galaxies, obtaining key clues for efforts to understand the origin and development of the universe. HUT is now on permanent display at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. Durrance is now a professor at the University of Central Florida.

The Space Telescope takes center stage on this badge. STS-82-Discovery

Launched on February 11, 1997, at 3:55:17 a.m.

Hopkins contributions: Hopkins astronomer Warren Moos was an investigator on the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), a new instrument installed in the Hubble on this mission. Hopkins scientist Mary Beth Kaiser built the lamps used to calibrate STIS.

Mission results: Astronomers have used STIS to search for and inventory black holes, and for a wide variety of other purposes ranging from studying the tenuous atmosphere of Io, a moon of Jupiter, to estimating how much ordinary matter is hidden in the gas between galaxies.

The patch includes a crude representation of what astronomers call airglow. Incoming bands of radiation cause the Earth's atmosphere to glow. STS-39-Discovery

Launched on April 28, 1991, at 7:33:14 a.m. EDT

Hopkins contributions: Hopkins astronomer Feldman was a co-investigator on the Ultraviolet Limb Imaging (UVLIM) experiment on this mission, which was a U.S. Department of Defense flight. The mission had several projects devoted to studying how the upper edge of the Earth's atmosphere interacted with solar radiation, the shuttle, satellites, gases, and other factors.

Mission results: Among other applications, astronomers have used UVLIM's readings to study changes in the composition and density of the portions of the atmosphere where satellites orbit.

A variation of the Space Telescope Science Institute's logo appears underneath the tiny image of the shuttle. STS-61-Endeavor

Launched on December 2, 1993, at 4:26:00 a.m. EST

Hopkins contributions: Ford co-chaired the panel that devised the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR), the equipment package that scientists used to compensate for problems in Hubble's primary mirror. At the start, scientists weren't even sure the fix was technologically possible.

Mission results: COSTAR, dubbed "the eyeglasses for Hubble," was a smashing success. Astronomers continue to use the Space Telescope to produce a range of beautiful and profound insights into the origins of the cosmos.

The head-on view of the shuttle is unusual, as is the view of Earth, because it clearly features the North American continent. STS-109-Columbia

Launched on March 1, 2002, at 6:22:02 a.m. EST

Hopkins contributions: Ford led the team that produced the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), a new instrument for the Hubble, installed along with other new Space Telescope equipment. The powerful new instrument, Ford says, should increase by a factor of 10 the Space Telescope's potential for making new discoveries.

Mission results: So far, so good -- the new instruments and equipment are checking out well. Elated astronomers released the first gorgeous ACS images in late April.

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