After five spacewalks on consecutive days to bring new life to the Hubble Space Telescope, astronauts on space shuttle Atlantis said goodbye to the venerable observatory, releasing it back to its orbital home. Watching it float out of the cargo bay was a bittersweet moment for everyone involved with the mission, and space enthusiasts, too, as even though Hubble is in great shape and now set to look out farther than ever before, this is that last time humans will visit, touch and care for the world’s most famous telescope. “It’s a sad moment but a great moment, because we put the Hubble in the best posture and and best performance in can be in,” said Jon Morse, NASA Astrophysics division director.
Using the shuttle’s robot arm, astronaut Megan McArthur gently lifted Hubble from the servicing platform in Atlantis’ payload bay where it had been positioned since last week Wednesday. The video is unique in that we get to hear all the action from the flight deck during Hubble’s release — almost as good as being there!
The astronauts conducted five spacewalks — two of them marathon sessions — spending more than 36 hours to upgrade and outfit Hubble with new instruments, including a new Wide Field Planetary Camera that should be able to see objects formed just 500 million years after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago.
The Atlantis crew completed everything NASA had planned, including the unprecedented repair of science instruments not designed to be worked on in space.
It was a mission for the ages.