Shuttle Mission to Hubble Delayed


Because of delays and complications from Hurricane Ike, the launch date for space shuttle Atlantis’ STS-125 mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope has been delayed four days until Oct. 14 at 10:19 p.m. EDT. The delay is not a surprise. The crew and mission controllers missed out on a week of valuable training time when they were forced to evacuate the Houston area when Hurricane Ike which hit on September 13. “You come to the question of either slipping the launch or cutting out events,” said STS-125 Commander Scott Altman when the crew arrived at Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday to prepare for a launch rehearsal. “All [our training] needs to be done and we have to make it happen before we fly… And that, of course, may mean a bit of a slip.” With Atlantis’ launch delay, subsequently shuttle Endeavour’s STS-126 supply mission to the International Space Station, also will move from Nov. 12 to Nov. 16 at 7:07 p.m. EST.

The astronauts are training for a grueling mission, with five back-to-back spacewalks to install two new science instruments, as well as repair two others and to install six new gyroscopes, six batteries, a fine guidance sensor and insulation.

“The bottom line to me is this mission is really hard,” said John Grunsfeld, lead spacewalker and veteran of two previous Hubble repair missions. “After 109, I thought we’d really maxed out what we could do on a space mission. This time, we’ve added a lot of content with inspections (for the shuttle heat shield). From an EVA standpoint, we’ve gone from doing heart surgery on Hubble to what is comparable to doing brain surgery on Hubble with the instrument repairs. So this is going to be a very complex mission, it’s going to be very hard.”

STS-125 crew.  Credit:  NASA
STS-125 crew. Credit: NASA

From left are, Mission Specialist Megan McArthur, Pilot Gregory C. Johnson, Mission Specialist Mike Massimino, Commander Scott Altman and Mission Specialists Andrew Feustel, John Grunsfeld and Michael Good.

Fellow spacewalker Mike Massimino said the crew will do everything they can to be ready, and the short delay will allow the team to be fully prepared. “We’ve been training hard and long and I feel pretty confident we’re going to be able to pull those two repairs off,” he said. “I think we’re ready for them and it’s just to be fresh, have it fresh in your mind, we’re going to hopefully recover those NBL runs and do a little more training in the simulator. But I think we’re as ready as we’re ever going to be to do that. Hopefully it’ll go as we expect it to. There’ll probably be some surprises in there that we didn’t anticipate. But I think we’re going to be ready to react to those as well.”

If the shuttle does indeed launch on Oct. 14, the first spacewalk would be on October 17.

Sources: NASA, CBS Space Place

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