Hugs for Hubble May 16, 2009Posted by Sarah in science, space.
Tags: astronomy, atlantis, hubble, nasa, sm4, space
The Hubble Space Telescope has been receiving some astronaut love this week as part of its 4th servicing mission, NASA’s final upgrade for the 19-year old observatory. The Atlantis crew have already carried out some crucial repairs in two lengthy space walks on Thursday and Friday: the famed WFPC2 camera was decommissioned and replaced by the shiny new wide field camera, WFC3, and new batteries and gyros have been installed to power up the telescope for a further 5 years of operations.
Following the demise of Columbia in 2003 the future of the servicing mission was thrown into serious doubt. Many considered the cost and risk of sending astronauts to Hubble too high in view of the safety concerns surrounding the Shuttle, and suggested NASA design a robotic servicing mission to Hubble. But the astronauts have well proven their worth this week, with several problems cropping up during the space walk that perhaps a robot would not have been able to deal with so easily. Julianne discusses the same point on Cosmic Variance.
The spacewalks can be followed live on the internet and, while the spacewalks last many hours, the coverage makes for fascinating viewing (at NASA TV). Spaceflight Now has excellent coverage on the whole mission, follow them on twitter to stay up to date.
A full schedule of the mission is here. The NY Times have a really cool interactive feature on Hubble and the repairs. Some amazing pictures have appared online, like today’s APOD (also on Bad Astronomy, here).