Kathy Sullivan, the first American woman to walk in space and a veteran of three shuttle missions, tells her experience as part of the team that launched, rescued, repaired, and maintained the Hubble Space Telescope in her new book “Handprints on Hubble.”

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Handprints on Hubble

An Astronaut's Story of Invention

By Kathryn D. Sullivan

The Hubble Space Telescope has revolutionized our understanding of the universe. It has, among many other achievements, revealed thousands of galaxies in what seemed to be empty patches of sky; transformed our knowledge of black holes; found dwarf planets with moons orbiting other stars, and measured precisely how fast the universe is expanding. In Handprints on Hubble, retired astronaut Kathy Sullivan describes her work on the NASA team that made all of this possible. Sullivan recounts how she and other astronauts, engineers, and scientists launched, rescued, repaired, and maintained Hubble, the most productive observatory ever built.

Along the way, Sullivan chronicles her early life as a “Sputnik Baby,” her path to NASA through oceanography, and her initiation into the space program where she was one of the first six women to join NASA's astronaut corps. She describes in vivid detail what liftoff feels like inside a spacecraft and shows us the view from a spacewalk. Sullivan explains that “maintainability” was designed into Hubble, and she describes the work of inventing the tools and processes that made on-orbit maintenance possible. Because in-flight repair and upgrade was part of the plan, NASA was able to fix a serious defect in Hubble's mirrors — leaving literal and metaphorical “handprints on Hubble.”

Handprints on Hubble was published with the support of the MIT Press Fund for Diverse Voices.

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Praise for Handprints on Hubble

Handprints on Hubble is a finalist for the Space Hipsters' Best Book in Astronomy, Exploration, or Space History

Learn more.

Handprints of Hubble named one of the best new biography books to read in 2020

As featured on CNN, Forbes, and Inc – BookAuthority has ranked Handprints on Hubble at #5 of best new biographies. Learn more.

Bill Nye
Bill Nye

CEO, The Planetary Society

Dr. Sullivan starts out headed for the bottom of the sea. Soon, she flies us 200 miles above the sky, using her head, heart, and hands to solve problem after problem— and help us take in views that are out of this world. She does it all with her veneer of astronaut cool, of course. What an adventure—no wonder she loves it.

Charles Bolden Jr

Astronaut; NASA Administrator

A wonderful tale of the most remarkable scientific instrument of our time, and the people who made it possible. This fascinating story of the Hubble Space Telescope’s visioning, development, and miraculous recovery, written by my longtime friend and two-time shuttle crewmate Dr. Kathy Sullivan, pays tribute to the unsung heroes of Hubble’s initial deployment and subsequent servicing.

Lynn Sheer
Lynn Sherr

Space correspondent, ABC News; author, Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space

So that’s how it all works! Kathy Sullivan’s insider knowledge and spacewalking savvy turn the nuts-and-bolts narrative of a giant piece of hardware into a daring space odyssey. From roaring rockets to tiny wrenches – as human ingenuity shaped NASA technology – it’s an intimate portrait of our magnificent Hubble eye-in-the-sky. I was, yes, riveted.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review

[A]n accessible and fascinating memoir of [Sullivan’s] experiences as a pioneering scientist, highlighted by her work on the Hubble space telescope… Sullivan’s fine volume shines a light on the nuts-and-bolts tasks that make extraordinary endeavors possible.”

Kirkus Reviews

Throughout the narrative, [Sullivan’s] easy hand with details and infectious enthusiasm make for a winning combination. A smooth delivery of the nit and grit behind the success of the Hubble.”

Homer Hickam
Author of Rocket Boys and October Sky

Astronaut Kathy Sullivan was there at the beginning of Hubble's design. As much as anyone, her handprints are on this magnificent space observatory. A page-turner, Sullivan's memoir is for more than space buffs. It's for anyone who loves a good read about an adventurous life written by the person who lived it.


Kathy Sullivan becomes the first woman to reach the deepest spot in the ocean

Kathy Sullivan, the first American woman to walk in space, made history by becoming the first woman to visit the deepest spot in the oceans, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, seven miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean Sunday, June 7, 2020.

Sullivan made her descent in the Limiting Factor, a two-person submersible designed and built by Triton Submarines, as part of Caladan Oceanic’s Ring of Fire Expedition led by investor and explorer Victor Vescovo, who piloted the submersible.

About 4,000 people have trekked to the top of Everest and 562 have been to outer space, but, until now, only seven people have traveled to the lowest point in the Mariana Trench. Sullivan makes the eighth person and the first woman to reach the bottom, which is 35,853 feet below sea level.

Sullivan marked the occasion by making a phone call from the submersible’s mothership, DSSV Pressure Drop, to speak with the NASA astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS).

“As a hybrid oceanographer and astronaut, this was an extraordinary day–a once-in-a-lifetime day–seeing the moonscape of the Challenger Deep and then making the call between the ISS and DSSV Pressure Drop,” said Sullivan.

You can follow her on this adventure at her blog "Sea and Space."
Book Talk, U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, Washington, D.C.
Recommended Reading and Videos
Wake Up Like an Astronaut
Houston area radio DJ Mike Cahill, the man who has written many parodies of popular songs which were used as wakeup calls for shuttle astronauts, has sent Kathy a playlist.

Cahill said he got the idea for producing gag wakeup calls in 1987 after hearing earlier, less professional efforts.

"A lot of them were the best of efforts, they were well-intentioned, but the people who had done them simply were not familiar with the terminology, and I'd been a tour guide on a part-time basis at Johnson (Space Center)," he said.

"But I worked full time as a writer and producer at a radio station in Houston that also serviced some comedy networks around the country. I just came up with the idea that you know, someone really ought to do some wakeup calls."

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We Don't Wanna Go Home


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Surfin EVA

Another Saturday Night

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Bread And Butter

Proud To Be A Celebrity

We Got A Secret

Copyright © 2020 · All Rights Reserved · Kathryn D. Sullivan