A NASA Astronaut who carried a flag bearing the logo of the
National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) on last month’s
Shuttle flight will return that flag to the observatory on
Friday, April 12, at a ceremony in Socorro.

Dr. John M. Grunsfeld
, payload commander of the

STS-109 flight
, also will
address students at the
New Mexico State Science Fair
Saturday, April 13, on the campus of New Mexico Tech in

Grunsfeld, an astronomer who observed with NRAO’s

Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope in 1991, carried
the 3-by-5-foot
NRAO flag aboard Columbia during the March 1-12 mission to
service the Hubble Space Telescope. The NRAO flag, made by
Socorro resident Dora Spargo, had been sent to the observatory’s
facilities in Socorro; Tucson, AZ; Green Bank, WV; and
Charlottesville, VA, where NRAO employees signed it prior to
the flight.

“With our signatures on that flag, we all felt like wref=re
riding along with John aboard the Shuttle,” said NRAO Director
Paul Vanden Bout. “We are proud that NRAO was represented on
a mission that was so important to astronomy,” Vanden Bout

During the flight, Grunsfeld performed three of the five
spacewalks in which crew members successfully upgraded the

Hubble Space Telescope
. The astronauts left the space
observatory with a new power unit, a new camera and new solar
arrays. The upgrades, said Grunsfeld, leave the orbiting
telescope with “its discovery potential significantly increased.”

STS-109 was Grunsfeld’s fourth space flight and his second
visit to Hubble. A research astronomer who received his
bachelor’s degree in physics from MIT and a Ph.D from the
University of Chicago in 1988, Grunsfeld was selected to
the astronaut corps in 1992. His first space flight, in
1995, featured astronomical observations using the Astro
observatory, a three-telescope facility aboard the Shuttle
Endeavour. In 1997, Grunsfeld rode Atlantis on
a 10-day mission to the Russian space station Mir. In
1999, he performed two space walks during a Discovery
mission to install new instruments on Hubble.

In 1991, while a senior research fellow at Caltech, Grunsfeld
was the principal investigator for a series of VLA observations
of a gamma-ray-emitting object, conducted at the same time the
object was observed by the orbiting Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.
“I still think fondly of my observations at the VLA,” said

During his visit to New Mexico, Grunsfeld will formally present
the NRAO flag to the observatory, along with documentation of
its flight aboard Columbia. He also will address the awards
ceremonies of the New Mexico State Science Fair. “We are
particularly pleased that John’s visit will allow him to speak
to the science fair students,” said Jim Ulvestad, NRAO’s
Assistant Director for New Mexico operations. “Those students
will be able to hear from someone whose science training has
literally taken him beyond the Earth,” Ulvestad said.

National Radio Astronomy Observatory
is a facility of the
National Science Foundation, operated
under cooperative agreement by
Associated Universities, Inc