NASA Astronauts Detail Final Hubble Servicing Mission

NASA Astronauts Detail Final Hubble Servicing Mission
The crew of NASA's fifth and final Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission. From left to right: Megan McArthur, Michael Good, Gregory C. Johnson, Scott Altman, John Grunsfeld, Michael Massimino and Andrew Feustel. (Image credit:

Seven NASA astronauts have a challengingmission ahead to pay onelast service call to the Hubble Space Telescope inless than two years' time.

On Tuesday,NASA chiefMichael Griffin gave shuttle commander Scott Altman and his six crewmates the green light fora May 2008 mission to repair and upgrade the 16-year-old orbital telescope.

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NASA's Next Hubble Mission

Here is NASA's day-by-day sketch of what the 2008 Hubble Space Telescope mission will likely entail:

Flight Day 1:? Launch and checkout of the shuttle robotic arm.

Flight Day 2:? Robotic arm grapple of the inspection boom and heat shield survey? Spacesuit, airlock and rendezvous tool checkouts? Rendezvous maneuvers? Flight Support System checkout

Flight Day 3:? Rendezvous and grapple of Hubble? Berthing of Hubble onto the Flight Support System? Shuttle robotic arm survey of shuttle's thermal protection system? EVA 1 preparations

Flight Day 4:? EVA 1? EVA 2 preparations

Flight Day 5:? EVA 2? EVA 3 preparations

Flight Day 6:? EVA 3? EVA 4 preparations

Flight Day 7:? EVA 4? EVA 5 preparations

Flight Day 8:? EVA 5? Reboost? Shuttle robotic arm grapple of Hubble

Flight Day 9:? Hubble release? Inspection boom grapple and unberth for late survey of shuttle's starboard thermalshield and nosecap

Flight Day 10:? Additional late survey with inspection boom of port thermal shield? Berthing of inspection boom? Off duty time for the crew

Flight Day 11:? Flight Control System checkout? Reaction Control System hot-fire test? Cabin Stowage? Off duty time for the crew

Flight Day 12:? Deorbit Preparations? Payload Bay Door Closing? Deorbit Burn? KSC Landing

Source: NASA

Known asServicing Mission-4 (SM-4), the 12-day Hubble flight is currently designated asSTS-125 and slated to launch aboard NASA's Discovery orbiter sometime during asix-month window that opens in May 2008, space agency officials said Tuesday.

"It's notlike we're planning from scratch," Chuck Shaw, NASA's mission director for theHubble servicing flight, said in a telephone interview. "We're actually pickingup where the earlier SM-4 planning left off."

Thespaceflight will be NASA's fifth andfinal mission to maintain Hubble before the agency's three-orbiter fleet isretired in September 2010. About 14other shuttle flights are dedicated to the completion of the International SpaceStation (ISS).

"We'rescoping out an actual date in May 2008," said NASA's Jennifer Wiseman, Hubbleprogram scientist at the space agency's Washington, D.C. headquarters, in atelephone interview. "The new science instruments have already been built."

Altman andhis six shuttle crewmates expect to launch towards Hubble from NASA's LaunchPad 39-A at the agency's Kennedy Space Center spaceport in Cape Canaveral, Florida. A second shuttle must already be atop KSC's other launch site--Pad 39-B--to serve asa rescue shuttle should the Hubble-bound orbiter suffer critical damage duringliftoff or in orbit, NASA officials said.

UnlikeNASA's ISS-bound shuttle crews, which can takerefuge aboard the orbital laboratory for at least two months should theirspacecraft suffer serious damage, a rescue mission for the 2008 Hubble flightwould have to launch within 25 days of the emergency to aid Altman and hiscrew. The astronauts will, however, carry extra food and other supplies insidetheir spacecraft cabin and cargo bay to support that contingency, which NASAofficials feel is extremely remote.

"We have astrategy that I think equalizes the risk," Altman said, adding that a rescueshuttle would not dock with his own orbiter.

Instead, thetwo vehicles would be linked by a robotic arm that would serve as a bridge toevacuate a crew from a stricken craft, he said, adding that the entire processwould take the better part of a day.


Altman andhis crew will deliver a new Wide Field-3 camera and Cosmic Origins Spectograph(COS) among the 22,000 pounds (9,979 kilograms) of hardware they willhaul up to Hubble to amplify its ability to observe some of the oldest objectsin the universe.

Fivespacewalks in as many days are required to install the new instruments, as wellas replace all six of Hubble's vital gyroscopes and perform other necessaryupgrades or repairs--including a first-ever orbital fix of the observatory'sSpace Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), which made the firstdetection of an atmosphere around an extrasolar planet before going offlinein 2004.

"At theconclusion of this mission, Hubble will be at the apex of its capabilities," David Leckrone, senior scientist for Hubble at NASA'sGoddard Space Flight Center, said Tuesday.

During theplanned mission, McArthur will serve as chief shuttle robotic arm operator toaid spacewalkers and perform crucialheat shield inspections to determine the orbiter's health. Grunsfeld,Massimo, Feustel and Good will perform the five extravehicular activities(EVAs) in teams of two to be arranged to have one veteran and one rookieworking outside at any given time.

"I kind offeel like I found my cause in life servicing the Hubble Space Telescope," saidGrunsfeld, who will be making his third trip to the orbital observatory withthe upcoming mission. "I think we have a challenging mission ahead of us."

TheHubble story so far:

Podcast:Hubble:The First Great Space Observatory

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AHubble-Shuttle Chronology
Mission: STS-31Shuttle: Discovery Objective: HubbleSpace Telescope DeploymentLaunch: April 24, 1990Landing: April 29, 1990Mission: STS-61Shuttle: EndeavourObjective: Hubble Servicing Mission 1Launch: Dec. 2, 1993Spacewalks: FiveLanding: Dec. 13, 1993 Mission: STS-82Shuttle: DiscoveryObjective:Hubble ServicingMission 2Launch: Feb. 11, 1997Spacewalks: FiveLanding: Feb. 21, 1997Mission: STS-103Shuttle: Discovery Objective: Hubble Servicing Mission 3ALaunch: Dec. 19, 1999Spacewalks: ThreeLanding: Dec. 27, 1999Mission: STS-109Shuttle: ColumbiaObjective: Hubble Servicing Mission 3BLaunch: March1, 2002Spacewalks: FiveLanding: March 12, 2002 Mission: STS-125Shuttle: Possibly DiscoveryObjective: HubbleServicing Mission 4Launch/Landing: May 2008Spacewalks: Five

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.