Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Atlantis to Inspect Tiles; Prepare for Hubble

Atlantis soars at 4:28 am ET this morning. NASA

The seven member crew of Atlantis will have a busy second day in space today as they prepare equipment for tomorrow's capture of the Hubble Space Telescope, and the inspection of the orbiter's heat protective thermal times and blankets for any damage following yesterday's launch.

At midnight EDT, the space telescope trailed behind Atlantis by about 4,000 miles, as Atlantis flew 180 miles above earth and Hubble 350 miles above. Atlantis traveling at a lower orbit allows the crew to catch up with Hubble at a quicker rate. Orbital mechanics.

Awoken at 5:01 am EDT, to the music "Kyrptonite" by 3 Doors Down, pilot Gregory Johnson replied to Mission Control in Houston, "Good morning, Houston. Great wake-up song, I really appreciate that."

First up, robotic arm controller Megan McArthur will use the shuttle's 50-foot arm to grapple the large orbiter boom sensor around 7:30 am EDT. The boom sensor is an extension to the robot arm - so that she can use a camera and laser sensor at the end of the OBS to survey the underside, wing leading edges and nose cap regions of Atlantis for any tile or thermal blanket damage.

While the nearly seven hour survey operation is underway, mission spacewalk crew members John Grunsfeld and
Andrew Feustel will begin spacesuit and spacewalk tools checkout in preparation for the first spacewalk on Thursday morning, which will see the wide field planetary camera 2 replaced with WFC #3.

There are five planned spacewalks in as many day to replace parts on the telescope and inspect for micrometorite damage since the shuttle's last visit to Hubble. The last time we looked upon NASA's great observatory was in March 2002 with shuttle Columbia on STS-109. Three of the current Atlantis crew members flew aboard that Columbia flight seven years ago - commander Scott Altman, Mike Massimino & Grunsfeld.

Atlantis set sail upon the ocean of space on Monday afternoon to begin an 11 day mission. Commander Altman, pilot Johnson, and mission specialists Grunsfeld, Feustel, McArthur, Massimino and Michael T. Good are scheduled to land back here at the Kennedy Space Center on May 22 at 11:41 am EDT.

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