Space Shuttle Mission to Hubble

Space Shuttle Atlantis safely lifted-off earlier this afternoon from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on an 11-day mission to repair the aging Hubble Space Telescope. Jim Bell reports.

The Shuttle Atlantis is on its way to rendezvous Wednesday with the Hubble Space Telescope, where the crew will spend 8 days giving the orbiting observatory an overhaul that will extend its life span for at least another five years.  NASA spokesman Bill Jeffs says among other things, the crew of seven will install a new and more advanced deep space camera.

“The wide-field camera will extend Hubble’s capability, not only for seeing deeper into the universe, but also by providing wide field imagery in all three regions of the spectrum.  The ultra-violet, visible and near infra-red.” 

They’ll also refurbish and upgrade the telescope’s batteries and instruments, including the computer that organizes its data and sends it down to Earth. 

Jeffs says this mission is significantly more risky than your typical shuttle mission, for a couple of reasons, so NASA is doing something it’s never done before.

“Hubble is in a different orbit than the Space Station, and so Atlantis cannot rendezvous and dock to the station.  As a result, a second shuttle, the Space Shuttle Endeavour is on a launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center ready to serve as a rescue vehicle in the unlikely event that Atlantis is unable to return home safely.” 

Jeffs says there’s also a high concentration of orbiting space junk and debris at the Hubble Telescope’s higher altitude and that just adds to the risk.  If the mission goes as planned, Atlantis will return to Earth a week from Friday on the 22nd. 

Jim Bell, KUHF, Houston Public Radio News.