‘Tremendous Adventure’ Gives Hubble New Life

Almost like Benjamin Button, the Hubble Space Telescope is now more vigorous and capable than with its original complement of instruments. “This is a tremendous adventure we’ve been on,” said astronaut John Grunsfeld at the end of Monday’s very successful EVA to repair and refurbish the famous space telescope. “This has been a very challenging mission. Hubble isn’t just a satellite, but it’s about humanity’s quest for knowledge.”

Grunsfeld and Drew Feustel installed a set of the observatory’s batteries, replaced a fine-guidance sensor that helps keep the telescope’s gaze precisely fixed on astronomical targets, and also replaced three thermal blankets protecting Hubble’s electronics.

“With today’s EVA Hubble is returned to flagship status with a full complement of instrument and tools for astronomers to use for the next several years,” saidJon Morse, Astrophyscis Division Director as NASA. “It is bittersweet to know this is our last visit to Hubble, but we have a saying in the science mission directorate: science never sleeps. So our work is just beginning. We have literally thousands of astronomers waiting to use Hubble, chomping at the bit to get their data.”

A view of Hubble from inside the shuttle Atlantis. Credit: NASA
A view of Hubble from inside the shuttle Atlantis. Credit: NASA

Monday’s 7 hour and 2 minute-long spacewalk marked the end of the five scheduled spacewalks for the STS-125 servicing mission. However the spacewalking team of Mike Massimino and Mike Good will be ready to go outside if any issues crop up Tuesday morning when all the systems are checked out before Hubble is released by the shuttle crew. Mission managers hope to have Atlantis back on the ground by Friday.
Earlier spacewalks overcame stubborn bolts and problematic tools, but all the mission objectives were achieved, much to the delight of everyone at NASA.

“This must be what it’s like to win the superbowl,” said Preston Burch, Hubble Program Manager. “As those of you who have followed us the past five days, working in space is challenging and there is a fine line between things that look easy and things that are impossible. The crew just never gave up.”

Lead flight director, Tony Ceccacci reminded everyone at a press conference following the EVA that Monday’s spacewalk was the last planned EVA out of the shuttle airlock. “It was both a very happy day and a sad day. We looked at each other and knew that was the last planned EVA out of the shuttle airlock. We’ve been working on this for over 2 ½ years, and we looked at each other and said, ‘wow this is really over.'”

Drew Feustal floats free near Hubble, while Grunsfeld is perched on the robotic arm. Credit: NASA TV
Drew Feustal floats free near Hubble, while Grunsfeld is perched on the robotic arm. Credit: NASA TV

The only glitch in the otherwise smooth EVA came at the very end when Grunsfeld – a self-proclaimed “Hubble Hugger” inadvertently bumped into one of the observatory’s two low-gain antennas with his foot, breaking off a small end cap. Grunsfeld felt terrible about the accident. “OK. I’m sick,” he said. However, the antenna still worked normally, mission control radioed up to him.

Grusnfeld and Feustel placed a protective cover over the cone-shaped device for added insulation before ending the spacewalk.

“Sorry, Mr. Hubble,” Grunsfeld said as he headed back to Atlantis’ airlock. “Have a good voyage.”

“Consider it a goodbye kiss, John,” Massimino radioed from inside the shuttle.

As Grunsfeld prepared to head back inside the shuttle he asked to say a few words.

“On this mission, we tried some things that some people said were impossible,” Grunsfeld said later. “We’ve achieved that, and we wish Hubble the very best.”

A replay of highlights from the 5th spacewalk is available.

8 Replies to “‘Tremendous Adventure’ Gives Hubble New Life”

  1. To the valiant astronauts that service our dear and cherished Hubble while we eagerly observe from earth, Namaste to you all, you are true humanitarians and the unsung heros of humanity. You invoke a wave to rise onward and upward and inward and outward …. Thank you sincerely from this back yard astronomer and student of life.

  2. Yeah, baby! What avalons child said.

    I was a bit pessimistic about the chances of them accomplishing all their objectives with the HST but they came through again.

    Can’t wait to see what new marvels will be revealed.

  3. I watched the live NASA feed today and I felt bad about not watching the previous EVAs before today. Talk about exciting stuff!

  4. I have been been watching on tenterhooks for some hours during all the EVAs. It has been heroic, noble and awe inspiring.

  5. I thought it appropriate that the lone astrophysicist on the mission, John Grunsfeld, was the last person to physically touch Hubble prior to its release. Sorta analogous to lone Apollo geologist Jack Schmidt and fellow astronaut Gene Cernan being the last two men to walk on the moon. Except, of course, that HST is now fully refurbished and well equipped to keep exploring the cosmos well into the next decade. To paraphrase Grunsfeld, WOOO HOOOO……. 🙂

  6. These events in space are grand to watch.
    The one I always remember was the Apollo 8 transmission. Watching the surface of the moon slide by was so new.

  7. WOW! Thank you Atlantis!

    With Hubble repaired and with the Herschel and Planck telescopes making their way to orbit, humanity will have way double extra groovy cool new eyes to view the universe!

    Awesome.. and terribly exciting! Oui?

  8. @BlueAmberol, I, too, remember the reading of Genesis by Frank Borman of Apollo 8 on Christmas eve, 1968. The view out the window was alien yet familiar (to an amateur astronomer, that is). That moment was truly spelllbinding, even for a wide-eyed 10 year old.

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