Hubble-Bound Astronauts Tweet Their Horn

Hubble-Bound Astronauts Tweet Their Horn
STS-125 Mission Specialist Mike Massimino s helped by a suit technician to don a harness over his launch and entry suit before entering space shuttle Atlantis for a simulated launch countdown. (Image credit: NASA/Amanda Diller.)

Call him @Astro_Mike. That?s the latest digital moniker ofNASA astronaut Michael Massimino, who has invited the world to tag along viathe Twitter micro-blogging Web site as he trains for a May space shuttlemission to overhaul the Hubble Space Telescope.

Massimino, a veteran spacewalker and Hubble repairman, isset to make his second trip to the iconic orbital observatory when he and sixother astronauts launchtoward Hubble on May 12 aboard NASA?s space shuttle Atlantis. The risky11-day mission will include five spacewalks and expected to extend Hubble?slifetime through at least 2014.

Twitter allows users to post 140-character notes about theircurrent thoughts and actions and to track the posts of others who do the same.NASA has been using the social networking site to reach out to a Web-savvypublic and promote various space science and mission efforts.

According to Massimino?s latest ?tweet,? he is currentlyembroiled ?in asimulator practicing for the first spacewalk on my mission.?

?He just started on Friday,? NASA spokesperson JamesHartsfield told from the Johnson Space Center in Houston. ?Hehas always been looking for good ways of connecting with the public and tellingthe stories of what they?re doing.?

Massimino is a veteran of two spacewalks, both of which heperformed during his first flight to Hubble during a 2002 service call. He willperform two of the five planned spacewalks during the upcoming STS-125 shuttleflight to add new instruments, replace batteries and gyroscopes, attach adocking ring for future robotic vehicles and make unprecedented repairs tosystems that were never designed to be fixed in space.

Themission is riskier than recent NASA shuttle missions because it is not boundfor the International Space Station, where astronauts can take refuge if theirorbiter suffers critical damage. Because Hubble flies in a higher orbit anddifferent inclination than the station, Atlantis will not be able to reach theorbiting laboratory to ferry its crew to a safe haven. Instead, NASA will havea second space shuttle on a Florida launch pad ready to launcha rescue mission, if required.

Massimino is using a mobile device to update his Twittermessages and is currently the only NASA astronaut to use the online tool forofficial space agency business, Hartsfield said. The space agency has ageneral, agency-wide NASA Twitter account and uses the tool to spread updatesfor many ongoing missions and other probes that have not yet launched intospace.

?Social media is a large and growing sector ofcommunications,? Hartsfield said. ?So this is a very neat thing and it offersMike a chance to connect with the public.?

Hartsfield cautioned Massimino?s Twitter followers to bepatient, especially as his mission?s launch date draws near.

?Of course, training keeps him very busy,? Hartsfield said.?So we?ll see how much he can update.?

Click here tofollow Massimino?s Twitter updates.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.