cover image Handprints on Hubble: An Astronaut’s Story of Invention

Handprints on Hubble: An Astronaut’s Story of Invention

Kathryn D. Sullivan. MIT, $26.95 (296p) ISBN 978-0-262-04318-2

Sullivan, the first female astronaut to do a space walk, debuts with an accessible and fascinating memoir of her experiences as a pioneering scientist, highlighted by her work on the Hubble space telescope. Beginning with joining NASA in 1978, as part of the first new batch of astronauts in nine years, she takes readers through a career arc that culminated in joining the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as under-secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. She focuses on her time at NASA, where she was part of a team responsible for the maintenance and repairs of Hubble, and involved in its launch. As Sullivan describes, with just the right amount of detail, painstaking preparations were required before Hubble launched—and even afterwards, a minuscule error imperiled the multibillion-dollar project, requiring an in-space repair mission. Sullivan is the perfect narrator to explain the underpinnings of the ambitious project and why it proved worthwhile—namely, that the images it captured greatly expanded humanity’s understanding of the birth of stars, the rate of the universe’s expansion, and other cosmic phenomena. Sullivan’s fine volume shines a light on the nuts-and-bolts tasks that make extraordinary endeavors possible. (Nov.)