The Journey of a Lifetime to Today's Shuttle Launch

ABC producer Gina Sunseri writes about the long road to today's launch.  The crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis is heading up to rescue Hubble - the space telescope that has for years captured amazing images of the solar system and beyond.

We first met the crew flying to the Hubble Space Telescope back on Halloween of 2006, when NASA announced it was going to go back and save the Hubble Space Telescope.

Today, watching them strap into their seats for launch, smiling, laughing, clearly excited about the mission to come, makes me think about how hard they have trained to get to this point, and I can’t imagine a better team to go save Hubble.

ABC News was invited to follow this crew.  The phrase 'unprecedented access' doesn’t begin to describe how they opened up their homes and their lives to us.

There is Commander Scott Altman, a Navy veteran, on his fourth flight into space, who missed his son’s graduation from college on Saturday.  We joked for a year and a half about his banning of fish on the flight menu.  It stinks and the garbage is packed right below the mid deck floor so they are stuck with it.  In the end he relented and let John Grunsfeld take salmon on this flight.

There is Pilot Greg Johnson, who had little photography experience before and now is chief photographer on this mission.  His friends and family threw a big party the night before launch but he couldn’t be there – the crew is in quarantine.   

Megan McArthur got married last fall.  Her home was destroyed by Hurricane Ike.  She dreams at night about her most important job on this mission: using the space shuttle's robotic arm to grab Hubble and bring it down to the shuttles payload bay.  If she doesn’t pull it off there are no spacewalks that can save Hubble.  She carries a retro "Space Girl" lunch box and has the smallest purse I have ever seen.

John Grunsfeld is the veteran, this being his fifth spaceflight and his third trip to Hubble.   He is an astronomer and is passing on his love of science to his children Sarah and Mace.  They go out to the backyard at night with a telescope to look at the stars. 

Mike Massimino is the funny guy on the crew.  He could host late night TV, but his day job is astronaut and he fervently believes in saving Hubble.  He coaches Little League baseball for his son Daniel, makes sure his daughter Gabby gets to her orthodontist appointments and figured out how to get home plate from Shea Stadium onto Atlantis.

Drew Feustel is a quietly funny guy who restored cars to work his way through college and now loves to race them.  He and his wife Indi are passionate about volunteering for the American Heart Association and he spends his weekends taking his two sons out for cart racing.  He plays pretty mean guitar too.

Mike Good is partner to the ebullient Mike Massimino on space walks.  He has a toy astronaut that he sticks on a map for his ten year old daughter so she knows where he is.   He jokes about what it is going to feel like hanging on to Hubble as it whips around the Earth at five miles per second.   He wants his wife to wear a really big hat when Hubble orbits over Houston so he can spot her from space.

They are off on the adventure of a lifetime.  When they get back there will be letdown.  After you save the Hubble Space Telescope, what do you do for an encore? 

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