5.07.2009

NASA rescue mission aims to revive Hubble Telescope

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/space/2009-05-06-hubble_N.htm
http://media4.obspm.fr/exoplanets/pages_exopl-resultats/images/images/hubble_telescope.jpg
The Hubble Space Telescope, one of the greatest scientific instruments of all time, is about to get an extreme makeover — an overhaul so delicate and risky that NASA astronaut John Grunsfeld likens it to "brain surgery."
At 19 years old, the famous telescope is showing its age. Three of its scientific instruments are broken. Half of its six gyroscopes, which keep the Hubble pointed in the right direction, aren't working. And its batteries are slowly dying.
The seven-member crew of space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to blast off Monday in an attempt to fix it.
It will be the fifth, final and most difficult mission to service the Hubble — a mission that was judged so risky to astronauts it was canceled in 2004 before safety precautions were added to ease the concerns.
If the work succeeds, it will mean a glorious rebirth of the Hubble. The telescope would be 90 times more powerful than when it was launched in 1990. If the mission fails, astronomy's crown jewel could become a $6.9 billion "piece of space junk" with no chance to save it, astronaut and mission commander Scott Altman says.
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