April 2, 2009

Astronauts prepare for final Hubble trip

The seven astronauts who will be aboard space shuttle Atlantis when it launches May 12 were busy Thursday in Florida, preparing for their STS-125 mission.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said the astronauts were conducting equipment and procedure familiarization training in preparation for their mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope.

Processing of Atlantis itself was being conducted at Launch Pad 39A, with technicians Wednesday testing all three of the shuttle's auxiliary power units and the external fuel tank camera.

Veteran astronaut Scott Altman will command the final shuttle mission to service Hubble, with retired Navy Capt. Gregory Johnson serving as pilot. The crew includes veteran spacewalkers John Grunsfeld and Mike Massimino, along with first-time space fliers Andrew Feustel, Michael Good and Megan McArthur.

During the 11-day mission's five spacewalks, astronauts will install two new instruments, repair two inactive ones and perform component replacements designed to keep the telescope functioning into at least 2014.

In addition to the originally scheduled work, NASA said Atlantis will carry a replacement Science Instrument Command and Data Handling Unit to replace similar equipment that stopped working Sept. 27. That delayed the servicing mission until the replacement was ready.