From Space Daily:
Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to lift off in August with a crew of seven astronauts and a cargo of equipment, tools and new instruments on the fifth and final mission to service the venerable telescope, which orbits 350 miles above the Earth. The shuttle also will carry an IMAX camera to record the historic mission for a film scheduled for release in 2010.
At the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society, Alan Stern, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, Washington, said, “Hubble is, without exaggeration, a national treasure, and all of NASA is looking forward to seeing it receive this tune up and upgrade. I think Americans are going to be excited when they see the results of this exciting shuttle mission flower into new discoveries about the solar system and the larger universe we live in. And let’s face it; it doesn’t get much more exciting than sending a team of astronauts and sophisticated high-tech instruments to make the Hubble better than it ever was before.”
The 11-day shuttle mission features five spacewalks. During those spacewalks, astronauts will install two powerful new science instruments, a new set of the gyroscopes that help stabilize the telescope, and batteries and thermal blankets to extend Hubble’s operational life until at least 2013. Also, if all goes well, a degrading Fine Guidance Sensor unit, one of three aboard Hubble, will be replaced with a refurbished unit to help maintain the telescope’s ability to point and focus on astronomical objects throughout the universe.
“As both an astronaut and an astronomer, the opportunity to go back to Hubble is more than a dream come true,” said John Grunsfeld, who will be the mission’s lead spacewalker. “This mission promises to be quite challenging. NASA has put together the most experienced Hubble crew ever, with three Hubble veterans. The crew and mission team are in full throttle training, looking forward to launch and the hard work of servicing Hubble.”
Originally, this mission wasn’t to take place. When Bu$hco announced in 2004 that NASA’s focus was to turn toward landing people on the Moon and eventually Mars, the Hubble was to die an ignoble death by eventually going blind and then deorbitting because of the funds being diverted to Project Constellation.
But then immense caterwalling and protest came from the public and the scientific communities about the Hubble’s fate made NASA actually pay attention and fund a repair/upgrade mission before the shuttle fleet got scrapped.
I personally find it amazing that the public really cared about something in space and a government agency actually paid attention. Must be Joe Public sometimes does realize the Universe is larger than the United States. If the Hubble was responsible for raising that kind of awareness in a jaded, selfish culture such as ours, it deserves to be upgraded for a hundred years!
Wonders upon wonders!