Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Atlantis to Grapple Hubble Telescope Today

The crew of space shuttle Atlantis are closing in for the capture of the Edwin P. Hubble Space Telescope, and the start of the busiest days of the new STS-125 mission.

The crew of seven - led by commander Scott Altman, pilot Greg Johnson and mission specialists Mike Massimino, John Grunsfeld, Megan McArthur, Mike Good and Andrew Feustel - were awoken this morning at 5:01 am EDT, to the music Upside Down by Jack Johnson, played for robotic arm operator McArthur.

Following a series of burns by Atlantis, the crew will fly Atlantis up from below to meet up and grapple the space telescope at 12:54 pm EDT, with its robot arm controlled by McArthur. The two crafts should be over the island of Madagascar off Africa's east coast at capture. Once captured, McArthur will ease the telescope slowly into a cradle in the aft section of the payload bay.

The gold foiled support service structure has been in space before, dating back to the 1984 STS-41C Solar Max satellite repair mission by Challenger. It was used on previous Hubble servicing flights.

Once NASA's Great Observatory is latched on the service structure, the crew will begin operations to survey the forty-foot tall telescope. The telescope was last "seen" seven years ago by the Columbia STS-109 mission. That flight included thre members of this current crew: Altman, Massimino and Grunsfeld.

Following the Hubble survey, the crew will check out their space suits for tomorrow's first of five planned walks in space to outfit HST with new equipment. Later, the crew is scheduled to go to sleep at 8:31 pm.

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