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.Î¾ 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.Î¾ The ultra-violet, visible and near infra-red."Î¾
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.Î¾
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.Î¾ 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."Î¾
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.Î¾ If the mission goes as planned, Atlantis will return to Earth a week from Friday on the 22nd.Î¾
Jim Bell, KUHF, Houston Public Radio News.