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New Hubble Opens Its Eyes

Morning rush hour traffic in DC is awful, but we're parked and loaded in at NASA HQ by 10 am.  The auditorium is empty so far, but there are a bunch of seats reserved; I see name placards for the astronauts, the new NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden (himself a former astronaut who coincidentally was pilot on the mission that launched Hubble in 1990), and Senator Barbara Mikulski, a longtime passionate champion for the telescope (aka "Hubble Hugger").
 
Suddenly a group of well dressed young men and women appear, and an intense conversation ensues between them and several NASA Public Affairs folks.  They're discussing the choreography of who will introduce Senator Mikulski and Administrator Bolden, where each person will stand, who speaks first, when the mic will be turned on and off, etc.  It's a little glimpse of the kind of stuff I imagine happens all the time in Washington - the handlers working out the details of the dance for the powerful people they represent.
 
I run into Mario Livio, astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute; the last time we saw each other was in May at Cape Canaveral, watching the launch from the roof of the CBS News building.  He confesses that watching the shuttle roar into the sky carrying his friends on that momentous mission, he briefly teared up that day.  I tell him I had seen the emotion he was feeling, and in fact, though I had far less invested in the event, that I had felt it too.

It's 10:45 AM now, and the place is really filling up.  I recognize faces I saw every day in Houston during the mission: scientists, writers, science journalists, Goddard engineers, NASA Public Affairs folks from the various centers.
 
I overhear Matt Mountain, Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, joking with a friend (who's obviously a fellow astrophysicist): "I get to take credit for something I did absolutely none of the work on - I love this job!"  He's far too modest; Matt may not have gone into space, but he worked the mission tirelessly in Houston, and I know the long hours he kept there.  Plus, not only does he run the place that runs the Hubble, he's also one of the most effective speakers and "translators" of science for regular folks that I've ever met.
 
The place is now full, and I see Senator Mikulski (in a wheelchair) is now in place; they're minutes away from starting...
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