HOUSTON -Atlantis astronauts began conserving power aboard their shuttle in case badweather prevents their planned landing on Friday and hailed their successfulrepairs to the Hubble Space Telescope.
Mission Controlasked the shuttle crew to power down non-essential systems Wednesday in casestormy weather in Florida thwarts their landing attempts at the Kennedy SpaceCenter in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The shuttle can also try and land Saturday orSunday in Florida or at a backup runway in California.
Atlantiscommander Scott Altman and his crew had a well-earned day off Wednesday andwore broad smiles as they recounted their mission to overhaul the 19-year-oldHubble with reporters on Earth and the astronauts aboard the International SpaceStation. They were expecting a private call from U.S. President Barack Obamalater today.
?It?samazing looking back at how hard things a couple of times, that were moredifficult than I ever expected,? Altman said. ?I think we were verysuccessful.?
The sevenastronauts aboard Atlantis faced down stuck bolts and stubborn gyroscopesduring five challenging spacewalks to repair Hubble?s twodead instruments and add two brand new ones and other gear to extend theiconic observatory?s life by another five or 10 years. They are the last humansever to touch or see Hubble up close.
?We did it,but I?m still impressed that we did it,? said astronaut Andrew Feustel, whoperformed three of the five spacewalks.
The threeastronauts aboard the International Space Station commended the Atlantiscrew for their successful Hubble repair, even if they admitted someprofessional jealousy.
?We allkind of envy you the chance to touch Hubble a final time,? station astronautMichael Barratt of NASA said.
ForAtlantis spacewalker Michael Massimino, one of the highest points was almostone of the lowest. During a delicaterepair to Hubble?s broken Space Telescope Imaging Spectrometer, a boltholding a handrail in place stuck fast and blocked his way. After more than anhour of delay, he finally just ripped the handrail off Hubble - with theapproval of Mission Control, of course.
?Rippingthat thing out of there was quite an experience, and I?m glad it led to asuccessful repair,? said Massimino, adding that he drew inspiration from hisuncle Frank, who once ripped an oil filter out a car using farm tools. ?Thatwas pretty close to what was going on with Hubble.?
None ofAtlantis? crew left a sign or personal note on Hubble before sending it on itsway, but Massimino?s handrail action will live on history, Barratt said.
?The magicMassimino touch is now legendary, and we?re looking forward to seeing you guysback on the ground,? he added.
Atlantis isdue to land at NASA?s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Fridayat 10:01 a.m. EDT (1401 GMT).
SPACE.comis providing continuous coverage of NASA's last mission to the Hubble Space Telescopewith senior editor Tariq Malik in Houston and reporter Clara Moskowitz in NewYork. Click here formission updates and SPACE.com's live NASA TV video feed.
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