2The Mission: Keep Hubble Operational
Over the course of five spacewalks, astronauts will install two new instruments, repair two inactive ones and perform the component replacements that will keep the telescope functioning at least into 2014. Atlantis’ crew is charged with replacing Hubble’s workhorse camera responsible for some of Hubble’s most spectacular images and its black-hole-hunting spectrograph.
3Day 1: Liftoff from Kennedy Space Center
Atlantis launched on her maiden space flight in 1985 with a classified payload for the Department of Defense. Over the next 24 years, Atlantis has carried more DOD payloads and pioneered the Shuttle-Mir missions, flying the first seven missions to dock with the Russian space station. This is Atlantis’ first trip to Hubble.
4Day 2: Prepping for on-Orbit Surgery
En route to Hubble, astronauts will be running through their routines for an unprecedented mission: performing on-orbit surgery on two ailing science instruments that reside inside the telescope. It’s a daunting challenge, as Hubble’s creators envisioned astronauts swapping out components, not performing delicate tasks during spacewalks.
5Day 3: Docking with Hubble
6Day 4: Installing New Wide-Field Camera
7Day 5: Charging Up the Hubble
8Day 6: Installing the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph
A spectrograph is an instrument that breaks light into its component colors, revealing information about the object emitting the light. COS sees exclusively in ultraviolet light and will improve Hubble’s ultraviolet sensitivity at least 10 times, and up to 70 times when observing extremely faint objects.
9Day 7: Instrument Repair
10Day 8: Sensor/Gyroscope Repairs
11Day 9: Departure
12Day 10: Testing and Calibration
13Day 11: Heading Home to Earth
Atlantis Commander Scott Altman on repair trip to Hubble: “I think it’s a step that we need to take to make us better able to go to places like Mars. You don’t want to drag a whole spare giant box along … Being able to demonstrate this in space is a key element of us growing as a spacefaring people.”
14Day 12: Landing
As NASA seeks to fulfill the Vision for Space Exploration program, beginning with the completion of the International Space Station, Atlantis will be scheduled for heavy duty over the last year and the final nine missions remaining for the shuttle program.