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NASA astronaut's next Twitter will be from space

Mission specialist Mike Massimino Twittered this morning before Hubble mission liftoff

May 11, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - NASA astronaut Mike Massimino fired off one final tweet this morning before boarding the space shuttle Atlantis to prepare for today's 2 p.m. launch.

His next tweet will come from outer space.

"I'm going to put my spacesuit on, next stop: Earth Orbit!!" wrote Massimino, who has been Twittering about his mission training for the past month. A few weeks ago, he announced at a press conference that he plans to keep his more than 209,000 Twitter followers updated from space.

Massimino, who is a mission specialist on this shuttle flight, has said he will Twitter from orbit when it doesn't interfere with the astronauts' busy schedule. He will be one of the four astronauts making a total of five spacewalks on this mission to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.

Atlantis is set to lift off today at 2:01 p.m. ET.

NASA said late last week that the shuttle mission, which will be the last sent to work on the telescope, will leave the Hubble telescope far more powerful than it's ever been. And that will put Hubble in the position to make more, and more important, discoveries in the next five years than it has in the past two decades, said Ed Ruitberg, deputy program manager for the Hubble Space Telescope.

"I would say Hubble is one of NASA's most important missions," Ruitberg told Computerworld. "With the number of discoveries it's already made, as we go into the next decade, Hubble's discoveries should increase. In fact, with the new capabilities that we're installing, Hubble will be better prepared to make more important discoveries."

During the 19 years it's been aloft, Hubble's discoveries have been so important that they have forced academics to revise astronomy text books, said Ruitberg. It took deep photographs of the universe and captured images of the birth and death of stars.

It also played a key role in discovering that the universe, driven by a force called dark energy, is expanding at an accelerating rate.

Ed Campion, a spokesman for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said this will be the most challenging mission yet to service the telescope. The difference, he noted, is that the astronauts won't just be switching out one big box of electronics for another. This time, they will actually be opening up scientific instruments and making repairs.

Massimino, noting that the astronauts have been training long and hard for this difficult mission, has been posting regular tweets about the training process, along with updates about doctors visits, press interviews and backyard barbecues.

"Enjoyed my last day on the planet for a couple of weeks with some study, practice, and last minute prep, but mostly trying to relax," he Twittered on Sunday.

"Finished my final fit check in my orange spacesuit and my parachute harness, packed my pockets with survival gear," Massimino Twittered on Saturday.

Massimino, who will be one of the astronauts assigned to working the space shuttle's robotic arm to grab onto and manipulate the Hubble telescope, has said NASA has not limited what he can Twitter about.

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