Along-awaited mission to repair and upgrade the venerable Hubble Space Telescopewill get serious next week when the space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to rollout to Launch Pad 39A at NASA?s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Thehigh-profile and risky mission will overhaulthe telescope for the fifth and final time.
The rolloutis slated to start Tuesday when the shuttle begins a 3.4-mile journey to thelaunch pad aboard a crawler moving at less than 1 mph.
The fullyassembled space shuttle, consisting of the orbiter, external fuel tank and twinsolid rocket boosters, was mounted on a mobile launcher platform and will bedelivered to the pad atop a crawler-transporter. The process is expected totake approximately six hours.
DuringAtlantis? 11-day mission, the crew of seven astronauts will make the finalshuttle flight to Hubble, considered by many to be the greatest telescope ever. During five spacewalks, they will install two newinstruments, repair two inactive ones and replace components. The result willbe six working, complementary science instruments with capabilities beyond whatis now available, and an extended operational lifespan for the telescopethrough at least 2014.
ScottAltman will be the commander of Atlantis. Gregory C. Johnson will be the pilot. Mission specialists will be John Grunsfeld, Mike Massimino, Megan McArthur,Andrew Feustel and Michael Good.
The missionis riskier than most because the astronauts will not have the safe haven of theInternational Space Station (which STS-119 crew members undocked from today) toturn to if their shuttle heat shield is damaged beyond repair as currentmissions to the station do. NASA will have a second shuttle ready to launch asa rescue ship instead.
The Hubblerepair mission also has an added risk because of the Feb. 10collision between a U.S. Iridium 33 communications satellite and thedefunct Russian military communications satellite Cosmos 2251. The mission wasat a higherspace debris risk to begin with.
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