Hubble Captured by Space Shuttle Crew

Article written: 13 May , 2009
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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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.

Screenshot of first view of Hubble from Atlantis on NASA TV.

Screenshot of first view of Hubble from Atlantis on NASA TV.


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 view from the shuttle's RMS camera of the grapple fixture on Hubble. NASA TV.

The view from the shuttle's RMS camera of the grapple fixture on Hubble. NASA TV.

The actual repair work will begin tomorrow (May 14) when the STS-125 crew will conduct the first of five spacewalks.

Scratches visible on Atlantis, found during the inspection. Credit: NASA

Scratches visible on Atlantis, found during the inspection. Credit: NASA



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.”


2 Responses

  1. Astrofiend says

    Bloody hell – they find debris strikes on literally every mission that flies these days. I guess it was only a matter of time for Columbia…

  2. Aqua says

    I heard that one of the early ‘blacked-out’ shuttle missions had some serious burn thru issues… but miraculously survived the ordeal.

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