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Tufts Engineer Featured on NPR for His Vital Hubble Repair

January 13, 2014

Emeritus Professor of Electrical Engineering Robert Gonsalves was recently featured in an interview on NPR for his role in solving an imaging problem with the Hubble telescope twenty years ago. Although Professor Gonsalves, an optics expert, had no affiliation with NASA at the time of the telescope's launch in 1990, within a few months he said he became curious about why NASA did not release any photos from the mission. When news finally broke that an undiagnosed problem was causing the telescope to produce blurry photographs, Gonsalves said he thought he may know how to fix the issue. Determined to call NASA himself to discuss his resolution, Gonsalves was in fact contacted by NASA the very next day. After examining blurry images taken by the telescope, Gonsalves discovered that placement of Hubble's mirror and corrective lens needed a small adjustment of 2 microns-roughly one-fiftieth of the size of a human hair. NASA developed a robot to make the extremely precise adjustment that was installed by a crew on the space shuttle Endeavor in December 1993. You can listen to a recording of the interview or read a transcript online.