May 25, 2009
Space shuttle Atlantis touched down safely yesterday morning at Edwards Air Force Base in California, wrapping up an ambitious and remarkably successful servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. The 13-day mission, likely the last time humans will lay hands on Hubble, came to an end with the orbiter's landing at 11:39 (Eastern Daylight Time). The shuttle was originally scheduled to land Friday, but poor weather in Florida caused NASA to keep Atlantis in orbit until conditions improved and eventually diverted the shuttle to California.
In Hubble's fifth servicing mission, the last one scheduled for the 19-year-old telescope, the shuttle crew successfully replaced several key components, including the sextet of massive batteries that have powered Hubble's night operations since its 1990 launch and a critical data handler that suffered an electronic failure in September. That glitch pushed back the timeline for the servicing mission, which had been set to launch the following month, so a spare could be readied for installation.
May 18, 2009 | 1
The Hubble Space Telescope has received its last upgrades and repairs. The fifth and final spacewalk of the last shuttle mission to Hubble ended at 3:22 P.M. (Eastern Daylight Time), wrapping up an ambitious and remarkably successful servicing operation.
The Hubble team hopes that the fixes will keep the telescope alive for several years, maybe even a decade or more, long after the space shuttle's scheduled retirement next year.
In today's spacewalk, the third of this mission for Drew Feustel and John Grunsfeld, the astronauts replaced three of Hubble's six massive batteries, which have powered the spacecraft during the night portion of its orbit for all of its 19 years in space. (The other three were swapped out in an earlier spacewalk.) Feustel and Grunsfeld also replaced a faulty Fine Guidance Sensor, one of three that helps to point the telescope, and installed a new set of external thermal blankets.
May 13, 2009
Atlantis is in its final approach to the Hubble Space Telescope, closing in for a scheduled rendezvous at 12:54 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time. After the shuttle catches up to the telescope in orbit and draws within 35 feet, astronaut Megan McArthur will maneuver the shuttle's robotic arm to grasp Hubble and pull it into Atlantis's payload bay.
Tomorrow the real work starts, with the first of five scheduled spacewalks designed to replace aging or faulty components and install two new scientific instruments on the 19-year-old observatory.
During yesterday's standard inspection of the shuttle's heat shield using boom-mounted sensors, NASA spotted some nicking near where the right wing meets the fuselage.
May 12, 2009 | 1
Astronauts aboard space shuttle Atlantis are inspecting the orbiter's heat shield for damage to ensure that the shuttle is capable of re-entering the atmosphere at the end of its servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.
Atlantis's launch yesterday afternoon from Kennedy Space Center in Florida appeared uneventful. But inspection of the shuttle's underside and leading edges is now a routine procedure following the loss of Columbia in 2003, when the shuttle broke up during reentry after sustaining damage to its heat shield from a piece of falling foam insulation at launch.
May 11, 2009
The space shuttle Atlantis lifted off without event just after 2:00 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Atlantis is carrying seven astronauts on the final scheduled servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Four of the astronauts will pair off to perform five spacewalks to repair and upgrade Hubble, replacing a critical electronic switchboard that partly failed in September and installing two new scientific instruments, among other procedures.
The shuttle reached orbit eight and a half minutes after an on-time launch at 2:01:56. During pre-launch checks, ground crews had expressed some concern about ice buildup on a liquid hydrogen line, but further inspections indicated that the ice was not extensive enough to pose a danger during ascent.
Feb 23, 2009 | 6
Google Earth can do many things: gaze into the cosmos, track the flu, and even stalk your friends. What it doesn’t do—or hasn’t yet, anyway—is discover the mythical lost continent of Atlantis.
A British tabloid, The Sun, claimed Friday that an image captured by users of Google Ocean “could show” Atlantis, a gigantic island described by Plato as a utopian society that “was swallowed up by the sea and vanished” after a great war with Athens. Plato was vague about the island’s location (and whether it was merely a parable or an actual place is hotly debated online), but the Sun claimed that a “host of crisscrossing lines, looking like a map of a vast metropolis” 620 miles off of Africa’s western coast, near the Canary Islands, “seem too vast and organized to be caused naturally.”
Oct 15, 2008 | 1
The Hubble Space Telescope has had a long and illustrious run, helping to pin down the age of the universe and pointing the way to the existence of dark energy. But that run may be halted if engineers can’t switch some operations over to backup units.
A formatter on the satellite’s Science Instrument Command and Data Handling (SIC&DH) unit failed last month, and today NASA began the process of switching over operations to the components on a backup formatter, most of which have not been powered up since Hubble’s 1990 launch.
Since the September 27 failure, Hubble has been largely incapacitated, as the SIC&DH component that failed, the Science Data Formatter, handles many key activities, including routing data and commands on board the satellite and relaying science information back to Earth.
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