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.
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