May 16, 2009

Another tough Hubble spacewalk foreseen

U.S. astronauts prepared Saturday for their most challenging in a series of five spacewalks to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA officials said.

Mission specialists John Grunsfeld and Drew Feustel of the Space Shuttle Atlantis were scheduled to install a highly sophisticated spectrograph after first removing a box housing hardware that 16 years ago came to the rescue in a bid to repair the Hubble's blurry vision, Florida Today reported.

After a long day of spacewalks Friday during which they struggled to replace gyroscopes critical to the Hubble's functioning, Grunsfeld and Feustel were also scheduled Saturday to repair the device's Advanced Camera for Surveys, one of its most widely used features until a power failure crippled it two years ago, the newspaper said.

The challenge for the astronauts comes from the fact that the camera was never designed to be serviced in space and fixing it requires spacewalkers to remove 36 tiny screws and replace four delicate electronics boards in a difficult areas, NASA said.

I expected (Friday) to be the hold-your-breath moment, and it's turned out that every day has been hold-your-breath, Hubble Project Scientist Dave Leckrone told Florida Today.