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The Hubble Space Telescope is now safely in the arms of space shuttle Atlantis. “Houston,” a jubilant shuttle commander Scott Altman called down, “Hubble has arrived on Atlantis!” “Everybody is very excited up here, I can tell you,” said Hubble fixit man John Grunsfeld. “We’re looking at an amazing sight right now. Hubble as an old man of 19 years still looks in fantastic shape.” However, there were a few tense moments as additional commands were required to get Hubble back in communication with the ground. Communication was re-established shortly before the shuttle was to begin a special maneuver to re-align the telescope’s antenna, much to the relief of everyone on the ground and in space.
UPDATE 2:15 EDT: Hubble is now securely attached to the servicing platform in Atlantis’ payload bay.
The grapple of Hubble occurred at 1:14 EDT, 350 statute miles over western Australia as both spacecraft orbited in tandem at 5 miles per second. With Hubble’s mass of 11,000 kg.
Atlantis approached Hubble from below, and when the shuttle was 700 feet away, Altman took over manual control of the shuttle, with a 42 degree yaw maneuver to align the two spacecraft. Altman then guided the ship up to within 35 feet of the observatory. Megan McArthur, operating Atlantis’ 50-foot- Remote Manipulator System, or robot arm, grappled the telescope. McArthur will then move the arm to mount Hubble on a service platform in the shuttle’s cargo bay.
The actual repair work will begin tomorrow (May 14) when the STS-125 crew will conduct the first of five spacewalks.
Also, later on Wednesday, a final determination will be made on damage to the shuttle, seen in the picture above, Early assessment from engineers was that the damage is not a problem. But further examination of results from the thermal protection system inspection will be done to determine of the scratches or scrapes will need to be fixed on orbit before the shuttle returns home.
Additionally, for more info on the Hubble Telescope, check out Phil Plait’s new article, “Ten Things You Don’t Know About Hubble.”