Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Three men at NASA serve pivotal roles in maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been taking high-resolution photos of deep space for more than 25 years. And they're all from Pittsburgh.




This view of the Veil Nebula supernova remnant is a mosaic of six Hubble pictures of a small area roughly two light-years across, covering only a tiny fraction of the nebula’s vast structure. This close-up look unveils wisps of gas, which are all that remain of what was once a star 20 times more massive than our sun.

PHOTOS COURTESY NASA/ESA/Hubble heritage team

 

It’s often said that no matter where you go, it’s easy to find a Pittsburgh connection. That’s even the case when looking far into deep space.

NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990. Since then, images captured by the telescope have filled the pages of more than 10,000 scientific papers — one of which won a Nobel Prize — and countless astronomy textbooks.

The Hubble Telescope relies on a team of hundreds of engineers, managers and scientists to keep operating at peak efficiency. In that state, it orbits the Earth at a rate of almost 5 miles per second — fast enough to travel across the continental United States in 10 minutes and circle the entire planet in 95.

Deputy Project Manager Jim Jeletic, Ground System Manager Jim Reis and Deputy Mission Operations Manager Mike Myslinski all are essential to the day-to-day operation of Hubble. All three men work out of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., but they each claim Pittsburgh as their hometown. 

  
(from left): Jim Jeletic, Mike Myslinski and Jim Reis | Photos courtesy NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center | Bill Hrybyk​
 

Jeletic, 54, a native of Avalon and graduate of Northgate High School, works with the Hubble project manager to oversee all aspects of the mission (technical, budgetary, etc.).

Growing up, Jeletic long had dreams of becoming an astronaut, as many children do. “My goal in life from the time I was about 4 years old was to work for NASA,” he says. “I was enthralled by the Apollo missions and the Space Race.”
 

After earning a degree in computer science from the University of Pennsylvania, Jeletic began working for NASA in 1984. He eventually became a co-director of NASA’s Software Engineering Laboratory and earned a master’s degree in engineering and management from George Washington University. In 1998, he accepted an offer to switch teams and work for Hubble. 

“I would’ve loved to have been [an astronaut], but I wasn’t going to [pass the vision requirement],” he says. “I did the next best thing, though — my goal was to explore the universe.”

​Jeletic acknowledges the role his Pittsburgh upbringing played in his success at NASA. “There’s an ethic [in Pittsburgh] of hard work, and I think that was instilled in me as a young kid, that you’re going to have to work hard in life,” he says.
 


Quadruple Saturn moon transit | photo by NASA Hubble Space Telescope.
 

​Jeletic also speaks of Pittsburgh’s unique spirit of community. “Other areas of the country don’t have as much of that because they’re very transient, but in Pittsburgh you have that feeling of home and community,” he says.

For Jim Reis, a graduate of Baldwin High School, a job at NASA came after earning a degree in computer science from the University of Pittsburgh and a stint working at U.S. Steel.

​Reis, 47, has worked on Hubble for 20 years. He maintains ground-based computers that are essential to the spacecraft, providing upkeep for the system and keeping it secure.

​Reis applied to join NASA after he toured the Goddard Space Flight Center in his senior year of college, where he found a team that worked with the latest technology and had an opening for someone with his skillset.

“I walked through a couple of labs, I met with a lot of people, and that’s what really got me interested,” Reis says. “The labs were embedded systems, hardware labs; they looked very fascinating to me. The teams seemed to be interfacing very well, and they had a mix of computers [Macs and PCs] at the time.”
 


An image resembling a butterfly emerges from a stellar demise in a planetary nebula | photo by NASA Hubble Space Telescope.
 

After five years as a computer engineer at NASA, Reis joined the Hubble team in 1996. Since then, he has earned a master’s degree in computer science from Johns Hopkins University. 

Although Myslinski, 62, was born in New York, he considers Pittsburgh to be his hometown because he moved to the city as a teenager. He graduated from Central Catholic High School in Oakland and the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned degrees in physics and computer science.
 

From Pitt, Myslinski began working at PPG Industries. A few years later, he ended up at NASA in 1979 as a spacecraft analyst. A college friend was employed by a company at the Goddard Space Flight Center, which needed someone to work on the spacecraft flight computer software for a new project. Myslinski says although he had no experience with spacecraft, his degrees, along with his programming experience from PPG and a recommendation from his friend, landed him the job. 

Fast forward to 1992, and Myslinski joined the Hubble team, where he is responsible for the telescope’s overall wellbeing. 
 


The largest of interacting galaxies Arp 273 has a disk distorted into a rose-like shape.
 

For Myslinski, highlights of working on the space telescope have been the manned servicing missions. There have been five missions since the telescope was launched in 1990, the first in 1993 and the last in 2009. During each mission, a team of astronauts interface with the telescope far above Earth’s atmosphere, repairing or replacing broken and outdated components.

“There’s a lot of activity, a lot of different types of work going on [during the servicing missions],” Myslinski says. “We’re working very closely with the people down at [the Johnson Space Center in Houston], the astronaut corps down there, just putting together a very detailed, choreographed timeline during the missions.

“I find that very exciting and very challenging — we had five missions, and each one was different, with its different challenges.”

The Hubble Space Telescope was designed to be modular, so components in the telescope can be replaced to keep pace with changing technology.
 


The rich tapestry of the Horsehead Nebula pops out against the backdrop of Milky Way stars and distant galaxies.
 

Although NASA officially ended space shuttle missions — including servicing missions to Hubble — seven years ago, there still is plenty of maintenance work to be done from the ground.

​Reis says working on Hubble didn’t get any less exciting after NASA stopped launching manned servicing missions. “The challenges today are kind of what keep me excited,” Reis says. “We go through what we call ‘tech refreshes,’ where we go through what’s obsolete in the ground systems and replace it. And we do those annually, and I find that really exciting”

Each of the men says he retains close ties to Pittsburgh, where they still have relatives. Jeletic and Reis make regular visits to the city; Myslinski says he doesn’t make it back as much as he’d like.

“Pittsburgh never leaves you, even when you do move,” Jeletic says. “Pittsburgh is very unique. I’m fortunate to work from NASA, and I also feel very fortunate that I came from the city of Pittsburgh.”

“Certainly folks from Pittsburgh have a great work ethic, and that translated well to coming to work for NASA,” says Myslinski, whose three sisters still live in western Pennsylvania. “There’s a lot of hometown pride, I’d say, especially when it comes to sports. People are proud to say they come from Pittsburgh.

I’m proud to say I come from Pittsburgh.”  

Brian Trimboli is a former Pittsburgh Magazine intern. He’s a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, where he was editor of CMU’s student newspaper, The Tartan.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

PM on KD: Give Magazine

PM associate editor Lauren Davidson appeared on KDKA's Pittsburgh Today Live to discuss our latest Give issue, a special edition focused on Pittsburghers giving back.

Spirit Plans Sensory Bending Benefit Dinner

Pittsburgh chefs, bartenders, artists and musicians will help kick-off the Lawrenceville bar's Vault 3.0 with a benefit for its rooftop garden project.

Build or Remodel in 2018? Submit Your Home to Our Best of Design Contest

Categories include Best New and Best Renovated homes, Best Kitchens and Best Outdoor Space.

HGTV's Leanne Ford Partners With PPG on Perfect White Paints

Known for her signature "white on white" aesthetic, the star of "Restored by the Fords" shares her "fail proof" color choices.

Halloween in Pittsburgh: How to Embrace the Fright

From haunted houses and scary movies to pumpkin patches and zombie bars –– we are here to help you experience as much of the ghoulish holiday as you dare.

Perspectives: Mourning Without a Road Map

A 30-year-old woman “who had lost her father too soon” learns the importance of following a plan when saying goodbye.

On Fitness: Peace and Posture Instead of No Pain, No Gain

Client by client, personal trainer Ian Riggins is dismantling the aggressive side of the fitness industry.

Angling for Tranquility: The Lure of Kayak Fishing

Kayak fishing is growing in popularity as anglers discover the peaceful joys of casting a line from the water's surface.

MultiStories: Pittsburgh's Art Deco Obelisk – The Gulf Building

As the Gulf Building rose into Pittsburgh skyline in the early 1930s, the prospects of its owner were headed in the opposite direction.

“First Man” Author to Appear at Heinz History Center

James R. Hansen, author of the authorized Neil Armstrong biography, will speak about the astronaut’s life on Nov. 1.

Results Are In: Jobs are Plentiful in Pittsburgh

Glassdoor’s newly released city shortlist for hot jobs ranks Pittsburgh #1.

The 400-Word Review: The Old Man and the Gun

Robert Redford's alleged final performance is a quiet, fitting farewell.

Sandwich, Helmet, Teammates Await Bell’s Return to Steelers

Le’Veon Bell reportedly intends to return to the Steelers before the second Browns game on Oct. 28, but hasn’t yet. But that didn’t stop some of his teammates from trying to have some fun with Bell at the media’s expense.

A New Day for Craft Beer in Pittsburgh

Day Bracey, along with Ed Bailey and Mike Potter, forges a more inclusive approach to craft brewing.

Southern Cuisine Served with a Big Side of Hospitality

Sugar and Smoke owner Andrea Robinson not only wants to feed customers of her new eatery in Bloomfield –– she wants to know their names.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Halloween in Pittsburgh: How to Embrace the Fright

Halloween in Pittsburgh: How to Embrace the Fright

From haunted houses and scary movies to pumpkin patches and zombie bars –– we are here to help you experience as much of the ghoulish holiday as you dare.

Comments

“First Man” Author to Appear at Heinz History Center

“First Man” Author to Appear at Heinz History Center

James R. Hansen, author of the authorized Neil Armstrong biography, will speak about the astronaut’s life on Nov. 1.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Spirit Plans Sensory Bending Benefit Dinner

Spirit Plans Sensory Bending Benefit Dinner

Pittsburgh chefs, bartenders, artists and musicians will help kick-off the Lawrenceville bar's Vault 3.0 with a benefit for its rooftop garden project.

Comments

Southern Cuisine Served with a Big Side of Hospitality

Southern Cuisine Served with a Big Side of Hospitality

Sugar and Smoke owner Andrea Robinson not only wants to feed customers of her new eatery in Bloomfield –– she wants to know their names.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 5 Best Places to Shop If You Have a Green Thumb

The 5 Best Places to Shop If You Have a Green Thumb

Hone your gardening skills at these top Pittsburgh-area nurseries, garden centers and shops.

Comments

The 5 Best Movie Theaters in Pittsburgh

The 5 Best Movie Theaters in Pittsburgh

A movie-going experience is about more than just the movie. PM Film Critic Sean Collier takes a break from movie reviews and shares the best spots for cocktails, classics and comfort.

Comments


House of 1000 Beers Is Not Exaggerating

House of 1000 Beers Is Not Exaggerating

There are actually more than 1,000 different varieties of beer available at the pleasant Warrendale bar and restaurant.

Comments

Phantom Fright Nights is Creepy, Essential Kennywood

Phantom Fright Nights is Creepy, Essential Kennywood

The Halloween attraction turns the playful park sinister in delightful ways.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Sandwich, Helmet, Teammates Await Bell’s Return to Steelers

Sandwich, Helmet, Teammates Await Bell’s Return to Steelers

Le’Veon Bell reportedly intends to return to the Steelers before the second Browns game on Oct. 28, but hasn’t yet. But that didn’t stop some of his teammates from trying to have some fun with Bell at the media’s expense.

Comments

Shazier, Steelers Return to Cincinnati Still Seeking a Happy Ending

Shazier, Steelers Return to Cincinnati Still Seeking a Happy Ending

Sunday's return to Paul Brown Stadium will be the Steelers' first trip back since last December when linebacker Ryan Shazier went down and stayed down. But this time he’ll be back on the sideline with his team, and most significantly he’ll be back on his feet.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: The Old Man and the Gun

The 400-Word Review: The Old Man and the Gun

Robert Redford's alleged final performance is a quiet, fitting farewell.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Halloween

The 400-Word Review: Halloween

Forty years later, a new "Halloween" resets most of the franchise and returns to form.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Pittsburgh Couples with Perfect New York City Proposals

Pittsburgh Couples with Perfect New York City Proposals

Another city of bridges provided the perfect backdrop for these romantic engagements.

Comments

Love and the Law: This Couple's Professor Nailed It

Love and the Law: This Couple's Professor Nailed It

When Julia Conley and Scott Scheinberg's law school professor predicted two people in the class would end up married to one another, they never imagined it would be them.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Build or Remodel in 2018? Submit Your Home to Our Best of Design Contest

Build or Remodel in 2018? Submit Your Home to Our Best of Design Contest

Categories include Best New and Best Renovated homes, Best Kitchens and Best Outdoor Space.

Comments

HGTV's Leanne Ford Partners With PPG on Perfect White Paints

HGTV's Leanne Ford Partners With PPG on Perfect White Paints

Known for her signature "white on white" aesthetic, the star of "Restored by the Fords" shares her "fail proof" color choices.

Comments