Hubble Astronauts Awed by New Images

Hubble Astronauts Awed by New Images
STS-125 crew members from left, Commander Scott Altman, Pilot Gregory Johnson, Mission Specialist Michael Good, Mission Specialist Megan McArthur, Mission Specialist John Grunsfeld, Mission Specialist Michael Massimino and Mission Specialist Andrew Feustel, are seen during a press conference, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2009, after astronomers declared the NASA's Hubble Space Telescope a fully rejuvenated observatory with the release Wednesday of observations from four of its six operating science instruments at NASA Headquarters in Washington. (Image credit: NASA/Paul E. Alers)

The astronauts who repaired the Hubble Space Telescopeearlier this year were on hand for the unveiling of the iconic observatory?sfirst new images today, describing a sense of awe over the pictures and reliefthat all of the telescope's instruments were working properly.

Being on hand for theimage release was "a tremendous treat," said Scott Altman,commander of the 13-day mission that repairedand revamped Hubble in May.

"It was just a very emotional feeling to look at thosephotos and be transported those billions of light-years away ? and knowing thatwe played a part in making that possible," Altman added.

During that mission, Altman and his colleagues installed twonew instruments, the Wide Field Camera 3 and a new super-sensitive spectrograph,repaired the Hubble's main Advanced Camera for Surveys and a versatile imagingspectrograph, and gave the telescope new gyroscopes and batteries.

Much of the repair work was never intended to be done inspace and the astronauts spent time "wondering if the things we weretrying to do up there were going to be successful," Altman said.

But the astronauts had to wait for engineers to finish threemonths of checkout and calibration before they knew for sure that Hubble'ssystems were working properly.

"I am so grateful that it's working and that I didn'tbreak anything," joked Mike Massimino. (One of the rules for the missionwas "don't break the Hubble," crew member John Grunsfeld said.) Buthis team members joked back that he did actually break something: When a boltholding a handrail in place refused to budge, even with specialized tools,Massimino resorted to ripping it off with brute strength. He showed the boltand the handrail at a press conference with the crew at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., today after the image unveiling.

When Grunsfeld first saw the new images taken with theinstruments he helped to repair he thought simply, "Wow."

"I don?t think anybody could have ever imagined we'dhave such a powerful telescope in orbit as we have now with Hubble,"Grunsfeld added.

Though the team was sad to leave Hubble behind ? and therewas some debate among them as to who was the last to touch the telescope, with astronautMegan McArthur putting in her bid as the last to move the telescope with theshuttle's robotic arm ? all of the astronauts were excited to see what the new-and-improved Hubble would do in thefuture.

It is "the beginning of the really great adventure,which is when the science comes out," Grunsfeld said.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Andrea Thompson

Andrea Thompson is an associate editor at Scientific American, where she covers sustainability, energy and the environment. Prior to that, she was a senior writer covering climate science at Climate Central and a reporter and editor at Live Science, where she primarily covered Earth science and the environment. She holds a graduate degree in science health and environmental reporting from New York University, as well as a bachelor of science and and masters of science in atmospheric chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology.