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The reinvention of Hubble May 11, 2009

Posted by Sarah in science, space.
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If you’re into space and astronomy, then I can’t imagine you don’t already know that the 4th Space Shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope, aka Pimp my Space Telescope, is launching today. Yes, TODAY! How long have we been waiting for this? It seems so long. So what’s happening? In their 11 days in space,  mission astronauts will undertake 5 spacewalks to make some crucial fixes and replacements to Hubble. Two brand new instruments, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and the Wide Field Camera 3 will be installed, setting the telescope up for 5 more years of Hubble goodness.

WFPC2, the camera that was responsible for so many of Hubble’s amazing images, will now be decommissioned. NASA released a final pretty picture from the camera yesterday, of planetary nebula K 4-55.

A final goodbye from WFPC2

A final goodbye from WFPC2, planetary nebula K 4-55

Mike Massimino, one of the astronauts on the Space Shuttle crew, has been twittering about his preparations for the mission. It’s been amazing to follow first-hand how astronauts prepare for these things and how they feel – particularly for this mission that is so long-awaited. Brilliant job Mike, thanks to you and all the crew, and safe travels tonight!

The launch is planned to take place at 2:01 EDT (check here what that is in your timezone) from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Watch it live over on NASA TV, and follow updates on twitter. NASA’s official page for the mission is here. Blogs with more mission information over at astropixie and Cosmic Variance.

Update, 11/05: Wired Science have a useful guide to following the Shuttle launch live, here.

Enjoy!

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