May 14, 2009

New Camera Installed to Hubble

Space shuttle Atlantis astronauts John Grunsfeld and Andrew Feustel have successfully installed a new camera to the Hubble Telescope during the first of five planned spacewalks of the STS-125 mission.

Grunsfeld and Feustel reported some early difficulty on Thursday with the A-latch bolt while trying to release the Wide Field Camera 2 from the Hubble telescope. Within the hour, astronauts reported that the latch bolt was finally all the way out and the WFPC 2 camera was free.

Astronauts temporarily stowed the WFPC 2 and successfully installed the Wide Field Camera 3 to the former location of the old camera on the telescope. The new Wide Field Camera 3 will enable Hubble to take massive, detailed pictures over a wide array of colors. The WFPC 2 will be carried back to Earth and put on display at the Smithsonian Institution.

Grunsfeld is now removing the new Science Instrument Command and Data Handling Unit from its carrier by releasing eight bolts, meanwhile Feustel is removing the old computer from the telescope by releasing 10 bolts. The computer is needed to send commands to Hubble's science instruments and to format science data for transmission to the ground.

Feustel will carry the old computer to Grunsfeld at the carrier, where the two will swap.

Feustel, rookie astronaut, joined Hubble veteran Grunsfeld in the mission's first spacewalk at 1252 GMT on Thursday.

The mission will include other upgrades such as the installation of the so-called Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, which will observe the light put out by extremely faint, far-away quasars and see how that light changes as it passes through the intervening gas between distant galaxies.
Atlantis connected with the orbiter 250 miles above the Earth at 12:14 CST Wednesday.

Megan McArthur steered the shuttle's 50-foot robot arm to connect with the massive telescope in the first contact NASA has had with the telescope since 2002.

Hubble has received four upgrades since it was launched by shuttle Discovery in 1990, where it was put into an orbit of 304 nautical miles above the Earth.

NASA believes the current upgrades will allow Hubble to continue operations for at least five years. Meanwhile, its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope is under development.


Image Credit: NASA


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