NASA Will Try to Launch Hubble Repair Mission Early


Personally, I think this move is just in response to the Onion’s most recent dig at NASA (“NASA Embarks on Epic Delay”) but mission managers for the upcoming Hubble repair mission are considering moving the launch of space shuttle Atlantis up one day to May 11. This would allow an extra day for launch attempts. May 12 had been the target day, but deputy program manager LeRoy Cain told reporters at a press conference on Thursday that the shuttle will likely be ready a day earlier, which would give Atlantis and extra day for a launch attempt before having to stand down for a week to allow the military to proceed with a previously scheduled launch at the Eastern Test Range. A decision about whether Atlantis will be ready to fly on the 11th will come next week Thursday (April 30) following a mission management review. But an accident at the launch pad that dinged one of Atlantis’ payload bay doors might hinder moving the launch up a day, and engineers are assessing if a repair is necessary.

A socket wrench at the launch pad.  Credit:
A socket wrench at the launch pad. Credit:

A one-and-one-eighth-inch socket from a torque wrench fell from a service platform and hit Atlantis’ left payload bay door radiator while cargo for the Hubble repair mission was being installed. None of the cargo for the mission was damaged. Engineers will decide if any repairs are needed.

But moving the launch up a day may be a first for NASA.

“We prefer to have three launch attempts days available and the team is off evaluating May 11,” Cain said. “It looks very good, but it will be constrained by the work that needs to be done with the cargo elements. We’ll set the official launch date next week

If any delays occur (weather, technical, etc) that Atlantis can’t get off the pad by May 13, the next opportunity to launch wouldn’t be until May 22. NASA, the military and commercial operators share tracking, safety and other support services at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Usually, it takes at least two days to configure the range for supporting different types of rockets.

Members of the STS-125 crew at a press briefing. Credit: NASA
Members of the STS-125 crew at a press briefing. Credit: NASA

At a later press briefing yesterday, the crew of the STS-125 mission to Hubble said they are looking forward to the mission. “We are ready for this mission, we are trained and looking forward to executing everything we’ve been preparing for,” said the commander Scott Altman.

The other “big” news revealed (perhaps another first) during the crew press conference is that Mike Massimino, who has been Twittering during the training for the mission, (@Astro_Mike) will attempt to Twitter from space. Massimino said he wasn’t yet sure how the team would work out the technical issues, as space missions don’t usually have streaming internet.

“We’re going to be really busy so I’m not sure how much we’ll do this from orbit,” he said. “I’ll try to do it when I have free time in between missions. I can’t make any promises, but I’m going to try.”

10 Replies to “NASA Will Try to Launch Hubble Repair Mission Early”

  1. I don’t know, Nathan….it has been such a nail biter as to if the Hubble would get this mission, that it feels almost like a movie that it is finally going to happen!

  2. I agree with Nathan. This silly movie poster is a very unwise move. The Hubble Repair Mission is an expensive and dangerous undertaking and it continues to be controversial. People are not in the mood for this kind of thing.

  3. “People are not in the mood for this kind of thing.”

    With respect, El Guapo, I have to say that many people *are* in the mood for this kind of thing. At a time when NASA’s very future is uncertain, when the whole Constellation program is – pardon the pun – up in the air, and a new NASA Administrator is still nowhere to be seen, Outreachers like myself are finding that the Hubble mission is absolutely something worth celebrating and promoting. It is proof that something IS still going on “up there”. Most people have heard of Hubble, and seen and loved its gorgeous pics, so many people are interested to hear that it will soon be visited, and worked on, by people, and will be sending back even *better* images afterwards. So, yes, the safety concerns are real, and serious, but this is what NASA should be doing – making a difference, inspiring and exciting people. And yeah, that poster is cheesier than the cheese counter at Asda, but it made me smile 🙂

  4. I found it very funny and worthy, publicity is one mayor issue everywere, you like it or not and this poster is a big deal coming from NASA. They are doing a hell of a good job and I bet the best is yet to come.

    Keep the good work!

  5. Thank you for the mission update. Even with the mishap of the dropped socket, I do hope this mission will be able to launch on time, even with the early date mentioned. I am ‘chomping at the bit’ to see the results of this mission.

    I only got to be a minor part of a launch at Vandenberg in the mid-1970’s, recording telemetry at a ground station up north in the South Bay Area. That particular station, until its closure in 2005, had supported every space shuttle missions. Yes, a very minor role, but I feel an attachment.

    Thank you for sharing this mission update.

  6. I think the posters are a necessary evil.

    The only way to keep congress from pecking at NASA’s budget, as if it was free money for the taking, is to make the public aware of how important spaceflight is.

    To that end NASA will be forced to attention whore every mission as if it was the next greatest summer blockbuster.
    I’d say they should go as far as to plan more action shots, documentaries, websites, interviews, and even make tv commercials if it means securing the public backing needed to stay in business.

    It might look corny, but keeping the medias attention is paramount to keeping men in space.

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