May 14, 2009

First of five Hubble spacewalks begins

The first of five planned U.S. spacewalks to service the Hubble Space Telescope began Thursday with the replacement of a Hubble camera.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said astronauts John Grunsfeld and Drew Feustel stepped into space at 8:52 a.m. EDT to remove and replace the telescope's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. That, said NASA, will allow Hubble to capture a wider range of images from ultraviolet to near-infrared wavelengths.

Also on Thursday's 6 1/2-hour spacewalk schedule were the replacement of a failed science data processing computer and installation of a mechanism that will allow a remote-controlled spacecraft to capture Hubble for a de-orbit burn at the end of its life.

NASA said the final scheduled task Thursday would be the installation of three latch-over-center kits, designed to allow faster opening and closing of the telescope's doors during the third spacewalk.