May 20, 2009

Atlantis Crewmembers Rest Before Heading Back To Earth

Space shuttle Atlantis astronauts treated themselves to some much deserved rest and relaxation on Wednesday.

The Atlantis mission has seen the completion of five long, tedious spacewalks conducted by four men working in teams to give the Hubble Space Telescope a boost in technology.

Contributions to Hubble by the Atlantis crew include installation of a new camera, a new computer, replacement of batteries as well as the repair of two instruments not designed to be worked on in space.

The astronauts' plans for the day include their first press conference since liftoff on May 11. Also, the crew is expecting a call from President Barack Obama at 2145 GMT today.

Additionally, the team is expected to complete the final inspection of the Atlantis' heat shield.

The STS-125 mission marks the space agency's fifth and final mission to connect with Hubble. After 2020, NASA plans to send a robotic craft to carry the telescope back to Earth where it will rest in the ocean.

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

"I truly believe this is a very important moment in human history, and I think it's an important moment for science," Hubble project scientist David Leckrone said.

"Just using what Hubble's already done as a starting point, it's unimaginable that we won't dramatically go further than that."

Astronaut Mike Massimo became the first to send the first Twitter message from space.

Most of his tweets from Wednesday have reflected on the beautiful things he has seen over the course of the mission.

"From orbit: As I closed my eyes to sleep last night I thought "Ëœthese eyes have seen some beautiful sights today'," Massimo wrote on Wednesday.

"From orbit: Enjoying a day off in space, taking photos, enjoying the view, having fun," he said in another Tweet.

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

Shuttle Atlantis is expected to arrive at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at about 10 a.m. ET Friday.


Image Caption: An STS-125 crew member aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis captured this still image of the Hubble Space Telescope as the two spacecraft begin their relative separation on May 19, after having been linked together for the better part of a week. During the week five spacewalks were performed to complete the final servicing mission for the orbital observatory. NASA


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