May 19, 2009—Space shuttle astronauts on Tuesday morning released the Hubble Space Telescope, following five spacewalks to repair and improve the 19-year-old spacecraft.
© 2009 National Geographic (AP); Video Courtesy NASA
NASA astronauts Tuesday morning released the Hubble telescope back into orbit after completing repairs and adding new equipment.
The space shuttle Atlantis gently pulled away after releasing Hubble from the shuttles robotic arm.
Spacewalking astronauts completed repairs to the 19-year-old HubbleSpace Telescope on Monday, leaving it more powerful than ever and able to peer even deeper into the cosmos.
UPSOUND (English) "You hear that guys? you've done it all." "We've done it all." "Not yet, I'm still working. But it's been a great achievement up here..."
They outfitted the observatory with another set of fresh batteries, a new sensor for precise pointing and protective covers.
That equipment, along with other improvements made over the last five days, should allow the telescope to provide dazzling views of the universe for another five to 10 years.
SOUNDBITE (English) Tony Ceccacci, Lead Flight Director: "It's a great moment because like everyone's been saying, we put the Hubble in the best posture and performance that it could ever been in. And what a good way to do your last shuttle EVA. And what better than with the Hubble."
It was the fifth and final spacewalk for the shuttle Atlantis crew, and the final visit by astronauts ever to Hubble.
As the spacewalk drew to a close, Hubble's chief mechanic, John Grunsfeld, accidentally bumped one of the telescope's antennas and knocked off its cap with his backpack.
UPSOUND (English) John Grunsfeld: "Oh no, I hope the antenna's okay. Oh, I feel terrible. I tapped the low gain antenna."
Mission Control quickly assured the astronauts the antenna was fine.
SOUNDBITE (English) Preston Burch, Associate Director of Flight Projects: "Yeah, this low gain antenna, we use it when we're in the payload bay, through the payload interrogator on the shuttle, and we've made performance measurements after the incident that occurred, and you know, we have a cover that we placed over top of it, and it's working fine."
During this last house call, astronauts gave Hubble two state-of-the-art science instruments and fixed two others. The additions should allow the telescope to gaze farther back into time, within 500 (m) million or 600 (m) million years of the first moments of the universe.
NASA hopes to crank Hubble back up by summer's end, following extensive testing of its new parts.