Bill Crabb

Bill Crabb

My name is Bill Crabb. I am the Deputy Mission Operations Manager for the MOSES contractor. MOSES is the name of the team of people, composed of individuals from several companies, who provide operations, engineering, and programming support for NASA on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). MOSES stands for Mission Operations Systems Engineering and Software. My job is to manage several groups of people who conduct mission operations for HST. The first group are the Flight Operations Controllers. These people work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week monitoring the telemetry data from the satellite, sending the commands necessary to support its observations, and responding to problems. A second group I am responsible for is the Flight Systems Engineering group. This team of engineers is responsible for investigating problems, writing procedures, developing command sequences, analyzing data to look for favorable or unfavorable trends, and for developing new and better ways of conducting operations. I am also responsible for teams of people who process HST engineering telemetry and others who manage the large database which is needed to perform operations.

A second aspect of my job involves preparing for servicing missions. The HST is different from other space telescopes in that it was designed to be visited by astronauts from time to time to make repairs or to put in newer, more modern instruments. The first servicing mission took place in December, 1993 while the next one is planned for February, 1997. Most of the people in the group that I manage are involved in planning for these missions. We develop what we call the timeline and command plan that details all the activities we will need to conduct HST operations during the mission. We write plans for dealing with any reasonable problems that might occur. An important aspect of preparing for servicing missions is training. The astronauts spend a lot of time practicing what they will need to do in space. The people on the ground have to train too. We develop and carry out simulations to prepare ourselves for both planned and unplanned events that may occur. We have already begun simulations for the Second Servicing Mission.

I think I knew when I was a very young boy that my future was in space. I remember going out in my back yard with my parents trying to see Sputnik. These were the very first artificial satellites, put in orbit by the Soviet Union in the fifties. I think it was from that time that I became interested in astronomy and space flight. I read every book that I could on astronomy and would go out in my back yard and try to identify constellations and planets. During my childhood both the United States and the Soviet Union began to put men and women into space. I followed each of these missions religiously. I knew the names of each of the astronauts, their spacecraft (they were capsules in those days), and the details of their missions. Whenever I could do a science project of my choice, I would choose an astronomy or space flight project.

After I graduated from high school, I went to college and studied astronomy. After graduating from college I went to work at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Goddard is responsible for conducting mission operations for many science satellites. Naturally, I've always tried to get involved with astronomy satellites such as HST and the International Ultraviolet Explorer. I've worked as a flight controller, flight systems engineer (on HST I've worked as an Optical Telescope and Safemode engineer) , and as a manager. I like my job. I think I can be proud of what I and the others with whom I work have accomplished on this program. After HST was launched (after considerable delay) it was discovered that the telescope suffered from a problem known as spherical aberration. Without getting too technical this means that the quality of the images that HST could deliver were not nearly as good as expected. The scientists and engineers worked very hard over the next couple of years figuring out how to fix this, and we did. I'm proud of the fact that we made that happen. The things I like best about my job are solving problems and preparing for servicing missions. The things I like least are going to meetings and doing paperwork. Recently I've gotten involved in developing an electronic documentation system which I've also enjoyed.

My advice for young people who may be interested in pursuing a career like mine is to get a good education. Read as much as you can. There is a great amount to be learned from books. Math and science are very important, not just for astronomy or engineering, but for any technical career. Math and sciences such as physics are the fundamental building blocks for this kind of work. Another important thing is your ability to express yourself, both in your writing and in your speaking. I have known good engineers who cannot get their ideas across to others because they write poorly or do not speak well in front of other people. I also think you should keep in mind something that my fourth grade teacher, Miss Gibson, used to say, "Anything worth doing is worth doing well." I have tried to live by this principle.

I have two daughters aged 12 and 10. I enjoy playing golf, basketball and bowling. I hope many of you will choose to follow a career path like mine. Maybe I'll be working with you some day!