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 22, 2009
The landing of space shuttle Atlantis has been postponed until tomorrow morning at the earliest* because of bad weather at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Atlantis had two landing opportunities at Kennedy today, but both were waved off this morning because of elevated crosswinds, a low cloud ceiling and nearby thunderstorms, all three of which fell outside NASA's parameters for a shuttle touchdown.
The first of four landing opportunities tomorrow is at 9:16 A.M. (Eastern Daylight Time) at Kennedy, but continued inclement weather in Florida could shift the site to Edwards Air Force Base in California, which has two landing opportunities Saturday. Landing in California is not as desirable because the shuttle must then be ferried back to Kennedy atop a specially equipped NASA 747 at a reported cost of $1.8 million. Such was the case after space shuttle Endeavour landed at Edwards at the end of November—click here to see an overhead photograph of the orbiter hitching a ride back to the East Coast.
May 19, 2009
From here on out, the Hubble Space Telescope is on its own. Astronaut Megan McArthur released the mighty scope from space shuttle Atlantis's robotic arm at 8:57 A.M. (Eastern Daylight Time) today, marking the likely end of all direct human contact with Hubble.
The shuttle crew performed numerous repairs and upgrades in five spacewalks spanning nearly 37 hours, in the hope of extending the 19-year-old telescope's life for another five to 10 years. The space shuttle program is set to be phased out next year, a move that will leave the U.S. without a manned space-launch system until at least 2015, and another mission to Hubble is not planned.
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 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 weather looks fine, the astronauts have climbed aboard, and all preparations appear to be going smoothly for today's afternoon launch of space shuttle Atlantis on its mission to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. The launch, postponed from last October to deal with electronic problems that arose in September, is scheduled for 2:01 (Eastern Daylight Time) from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The seven astronauts on the 11-day mission will deliver new scientific instruments and a slew of replacement parts for Hubble, including a set of new 125-pound (57-kilogram) batteries to replace the six originals that have powered Hubble's night-side activities since its 1990 launch.
Deadline: Jun 29 2013
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Deadline: Jul 15 2013
Reward: $5,000 USD
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