June 15, 2008
Focus Turns to Hubble Space Telescope Repair Mission
CAPE CANAVERAL -- The space shuttle Discovery touched down safely Saturday, ending a 14-day International Space Station construction job and clearing the way for a major mission to repair and augment the Hubble Space Telescope.
Planned repairs and additions to Hubble, scheduled for October, "will bring it to the apex of its scientific ability," said Michael Weiss, NASA deputy program technical manager for the Hubble program at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
Astronauts will try to repair two Hubble cameras that have lost their power supplies.
Fixing those cameras coupled with two new ones that will be attached to the orbiting telescope will give the Hubble "an extraordinary capability," Weiss said.
The new batteries and gyroscopes will extend Hubble's life for at least five years. Thermal blankets will help protect its sensitive parts.
New cameras will allow the telescope to get a wider, more distant and sharper view of objects, Weiss said.
"Everything is gearing up now," for Hubble, said NASA spokesman Allard Beutel. "From now on . . . it will be all Hubble, all the time."
Although the Discovery crew completed one of the biggest milestones in the construction of the International Space Station -- the delivery and installation of the Japanese Kibo science laboratory -- the mission will also be remembered for a more humorous event.
The Russian toilet aboard the space station went kaput a week before the shuttle blasted off and technicians had to rush a replacement pump to Florida where it was put aboard the shuttle for a special delivery.
A Russian cosmonaut installed the pump -- one that disposes of urine -- which was a great relief to the three male astronauts aboard the space station. The part of the toilet that handles solid waste was fine, NASA officials said.
The 37-foot-long Kibo -- Japanese for "hope" -- is the biggest addition to the space station and will allow the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and its international partners to assign six scientist/astronauts to the space station instead of the current three crew members.
"We are really glad to be involved in making the space station a bigger and more capable place," shuttle commander Mark Kelly said, as he completed a tour of the shuttle after the crew landed on schedule at 11:15 a.m.