John Grunsfeld
Grunsfeld in 2000
John Mace Grunsfeld

(1958-10-10) October 10, 1958 (age 65)
EducationMassachusetts Institute of Technology (BS)
University of Chicago (MS, PhD)
Space career
NASA astronaut
Time in space
58d 15h 3m
SelectionNASA Group 14 (1992)
Total EVAs
Total EVA time
58h 30m
Mission insignia
Scientific career
ThesisThe Energy Spectrum of the Iron Group Elements in the Cosmic Rays from 50-1000 GeV/amu (1988)
John Grunsfeld during STS-109
March 4, 2002

John Mace Grunsfeld (born 10 October 1958) is an American physicist and a former NASA astronaut. He is a veteran of five Space Shuttle flights and has served as NASA Chief Scientist. His academic background includes research in high energy astrophysics, cosmic ray physics and the emerging field of exoplanet studies with specific interest in future astronomical instrumentation.[1] After retiring from NASA in 2009, he served as the deputy director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. In January 2012, he returned to NASA and served as associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD).[2] Grunsfeld announced his retirement from NASA in April 2016.[3]

Personal life

Grunsfeld was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Ernest Alton 'Tony' Grunsfeld III, a distinguished Chicago architect, and Sally Mace Grunsfeld; grandson of architect Ernest Grunsfeld Jr., architect of the Adler Planetarium.[4] He is married to the former Carol E. Schiff, with whom he has two children. Grunsfeld enjoys mountaineering, flying, sailing, bicycling, and music. His father, Ernest Grunsfeld III, died in 2011 at the age of 81.[5]


Grunsfeld graduated from Highland Park High School in Highland Park, Illinois, in 1976.[6] He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earning a Bachelor of Science in physics in 1980.[6][7] He then attended the University of Chicago, earning a Master of Science in physics in 1984 and a Doctor of Philosophy in physics in 1988.[6][7]


Awards and honors

Science career

Grunsfeld's academic positions include that of visiting scientist, University of Tokyo/Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (1980–81); graduate research assistant, University of Chicago (1981–1985); NASA Graduate Student Fellow, University of Chicago (1985–1987); W.D. Grainger Postdoctoral Fellow in Experimental Physics, University of Chicago (1988–89); and senior research fellow, California Institute of Technology (1989–1992). Grunsfeld's research has covered x-ray and gamma-ray astronomy, high-energy cosmic ray studies, and development of new detectors and instrumentation. Grunsfeld studied binary pulsars and energetic x-ray and gamma ray sources using the NASA Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, x-ray astronomy satellites, radio telescopes, and optical telescopes including the NASA Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA career

Grunsfeld was selected by NASA in March 1992 as an astronaut candidate and reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1992. He completed one year of training and qualified for flight selection as a mission specialist. Grunsfeld was initially detailed to the Astronaut Office Mission Development Branch and was assigned as the lead for portable computers for use in space. Following his first flight, he led a team of engineers and computer programmers tasked with defining and producing the crew displays for command and control of the International Space Station (ISS). As part of this activity, he directed an effort combining the resources of the Mission Control Center (MCC) Display Team and the Space Station Training Facility. The result was the creation of the Common Display Development Facility (CDDF), responsible for the onboard and MCC displays for the International Space Station, using object-oriented programming techniques. Following his second flight, he was assigned as Chief of the Computer Support Branch in the Astronaut Office supporting Space Shuttle and International Space Station Programs and advanced technology development. Following STS-103, he served as Chief of the Extravehicular Activity Branch in the Astronaut Office. Following STS-109, Grunsfeld served as an instructor in the Extravehicular Activity Branch, and worked on the Orbital Space Plane, exploration concepts, and technologies for use beyond low-Earth orbit in the Advanced Programs Branch. He served as NASA Chief Scientist assigned to NASA Headquarters from 2003 to 2004. In January 2012, he became the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA's headquarters in Washington, replacing Ed Weiler.[9]

Grunsfeld has been actively engaged in communicating space science topics to the public through interviews, public lectures, and television appearances. He was interviewed by NASA's Astrobiology Magazine about the James Webb Space Telescope[10] and at the Science with Hubble Space Telescope III conference in Venice, Italy, about carrying out repairs and upgrades on the Hubble Space Telescope.[11] His public lectures include Hugging Hubble at the Space Telescope Science Institute's May, 2010, Symposium,[12] Big Science Questions at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Aspen Center for Physics[13] and The Hubble Story presented as a special public lecture at Oxford University's department of physics.[14] He has made several television appearances to discuss the successful landing of the Mars Curiosity rover in August 2012 and its mission, including appearances on the PBS NewsHour with Judy Woodruff,[15] the Colbert Report,[16][17] and on NASA television.[18]

On April 5, 2016, Grunsfield announced his retirement from NASA, starting April 30.

Spaceflight experience

John Grunsfeld works on the Hubble Space Telescope during STS-125
May 14, 2009

STS-67/Astro-2 Space Shuttle Endeavour (March 2–18, 1995) was launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and returned to land at Edwards Air Force Base, California. It was the second flight of the Astro observatory, a unique complement of three ultra-violet telescopes. During this record-setting 16-day mission, the crew conducted observations around the clock to study the far ultraviolet spectra of faint astronomical objects and the polarization of ultraviolet light coming from hot stars and distant galaxies. Mission duration was 399 hours and 9 minutes.

STS-81 Space Shuttle Atlantis (January 12–22, 1997) was a 10-day mission, the fifth to dock with Russia's Mir space station, and the second to exchange U.S. astronauts. The mission also carried the Spacehab double module providing additional middeck locker space for secondary experiments. In five days of docked operations more than three tons of food, water, experiment equipment and samples were moved back and forth between the two spacecraft. Grunsfeld served as the flight engineer on this flight. Following 160 orbits of the Earth the STS-81 mission concluded with a landing on Kennedy Space Center's Runway 33 ending a 3.9 million mile journey. Mission duration was 244 hours, 56 minutes. During this flight, Grunsfeld placed a phone call to NPR's auto-repair radio show, Car Talk. In this call he complained about the performance of his serial-numbered, Rockwell-manufactured "government van". To wit, it would run very loud and rough for about two minutes, quieter and smoother for another six and a half, and then the engine would stop with a jolt. He went on to state that the brakes of the vehicle, when applied, would glow red-hot, and that the vehicle's odometer displayed "about 60 million miles". This created some consternation for the hosts, until they noticed the audio of Grunsfeld's voice, being relayed from Mir via TDRS satellite, sounded similar to that of Tom Hanks in the then-recent film Apollo 13, after which they realized the call was from space and the government van in question was, in fact, the Space Shuttle.[19]

STS-103 Space Shuttle Discovery (December 19–27, 1999) was an eight-day mission during which the crew successfully installed new gyroscopes and scientific instruments and upgraded systems on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Enhancing HST scientific capabilities required three spacewalks (EVA). Grunsfeld performed two spacewalks totaling 16 hours and 23 minutes. The STS-103 mission was accomplished in 120 Earth orbits, traveling 3.2 million miles in 191 hours and 11 minutes.

STS-109 Space Shuttle Columbia (March 1–12, 2002) was the fourth Hubble Space Telescope (HST) servicing mission. The crew of STS-109 successfully upgraded the Hubble Space Telescope installing a new digital camera, a cooling system for the infrared camera, new solar arrays and a new power system. HST servicing and upgrades were accomplished by four crewmembers during a total of five EVAs in five consecutive days. Grunsfeld served as the payload commander on STS-109 in charge of the space walking activities and the Hubble payload. He also performed three spacewalks totaling 21 hours and 9 minutes, including the installation of the new Power Control Unit. STS-109 orbited the Earth 165 times, and covered 3.9 million miles in over 262 hours.

STS-125 Space Shuttle Atlantis (May 11–24, 2009) was the fifth and final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Atlantis launched from Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad 39A May 11, 2009, at 2:01 p.m. EDT, and landed on May 24, 2009 at California's Edwards Air Force Base.[20][21] During the mission, Grunsfeld performed three of the mission's five back-to-back spacewalks, which installed two new instruments to the Hubble Space Telescope: The Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, and the Wide Field Camera 3. The mission also replaced a Fine Guidance Sensor, six new gyroscopes, and two battery unit modules, to allow the telescope to continue to function at least through 2014.[22][23] One issue Grunsfeld and his crew experienced during the overhaul was the stripping of 10mm bolts due to improper assembly and technique which he discussed again on Car Talk.

Grunsfeld has logged over 58 days in space, including eight space walks totaling 58 hours and 30 minutes.[24][25]

Space Telescope Science Institute

According to a NASA press release in January 2010, Grunsfeld indicated he would leave the agency to serve as deputy director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.[26] There he helped prepare the institute for operations with NASA's planned James Webb Space Telescope.[27] He also became a research professor in the Johns Hopkins University department of physics and astronomy in July, 2010.[28]


Grunsfeld appeared on the PBS NOVA episode "Deadly Ascent", which showed him climbing Denali, the highest peak in North America, in June 2000. Grunsfeld, along with Howard Donner, (a consultant to NASA) conducted research into the effects of body temperature at high altitudes by using internal thermometers swallowed in pill form. He was able to climb to an altitude of 18,200 feet before one of the team members had difficulty forcing the team to turn back. Grunsfeld was inspired by Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay, and Brad Washburn in mountaineering.

In June 2004, Grunsfeld returned to Denali while on leave from NASA and successfully led a team of fellow NASA climbers that summitted. He is the one of two astronauts to have climbed to the top of Denali.


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

  1. ^ "NASA Leadership: John M. Grunsfeld, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate". NASA. January 2012.
  2. ^ David Weaver (December 19, 2011). "Physicist and Former Astronaut John Grunsfeld to Head NASA Science Directorate". NASA.
  3. ^ Karen Northon (April 5, 2016). "John Grunsfeld Announces Retirement from NASA". NASA.
  4. ^ Phillip Fox (September 1933). "Adler Planetarium and Astronomical Museum, An Account of the Optical Planetarium and a Brief Guide to the Museum". Lakeside Press. p. 8.
  5. ^ Blair Kamen and Margaret Ramirez (April 25, 2011). "Ernest A. Grunsfeld III, 1929-2011". Chicago Tribune.
  7. ^ a b Spacefacts Biography of John M. Grunsfeld. Spacefacts. Retrieved July 19, 2011.
  8. ^ "U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame". Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  9. ^ NASA (December 2011). "Physicist And Former Astronaut John Grunsfeld To Head NASA Science Directorate".
  10. ^ Leslie Mullen (October 24, 2011). "The James Webb Telescope Will See Earth-Like Worlds". NASA's Astrobiology Magazine.
  11. ^ "Astronaut John Grunsfeld talks about working on Hubble". Hubble ESA Information Centre. May 18, 2011.
  12. ^ "Hugging Hubble". STScI. May 4, 2010.
  13. ^ "Big Science Questions". Aspen Center for Physics. July 5, 2011. Archived from the original on December 9, 2012.
  14. ^ "The Hubble Story". Oxford University, Department of Physics. November 30, 2011.
  15. ^ "Mars Curiosity rover: NASA's John Grunsfeld and Miles O'Brien on PBS NewsHour". PBS. August 7, 2012.
  16. ^ "The Colbert Report: John Grunsfeld". Comedy Central/Comedy Partners. August 1, 2012.
  17. ^ "NASA Image of the Day Gallery: John Grunsfeld on the Colbert Report". NASA. August 1, 2012.
  18. ^ "Science Chat with NASA's John Grunsfeld and JPL's Charles Elachi". NASA. August 5, 2012.
  19. ^ Car Talk Blog Flashback: Car Talk in Outer Space from 18-Oct-2012 at (audio is on You Tube at
  20. ^ NASA (May 11, 2009). "STS-125 MCC Status Report #01". NASA. Retrieved May 11, 2009.
  21. ^ William Harwood (May 24, 2009). "Shuttle Atlantis glides to smooth California landing". CNET. Retrieved May 26, 2009.
  22. ^ John Matson (May 8, 2009). "Last Dance with the Shuttle: What's in Store for the Final Hubble Servicing Mission". Scientific American. Retrieved May 18, 2009.
  23. ^ Dennis Overbye (May 18, 2009). "As Tasks at Hubble End, No Tears, but It Was Close". New York Times. Retrieved May 18, 2009.
  24. ^ Tariq Malik (May 18, 2009). "Astronauts Give Hubble Telescope One Last Hug". Retrieved May 18, 2009.
  25. ^ Dennis Overbye (April 13, 2009). "Scientist at Work: John Grunsfeld - Last Voyage for the Keeper of the Hubble". New York Times. Retrieved May 19, 2009.
  26. ^ "NASA Astronaut John Grunsfeld, Instrumental to Hubble Telescope Repair, Will Help Oversee its Science Operations". January 4, 2010. Retrieved January 7, 2010.
  27. ^ Morring, Frank (January 11, 2010). "In Orbit "Dr. Fixit"". Aviation Week. McGraw-Hill: 14.
  28. ^ ""Hubble Repairman" Becomes Research Professor at Johns Hopkins University". July 8, 2010. Retrieved October 13, 2010.