Archive for May, 2009
Atlantis had a flawless landing at Edwards Air Force Base at 17:40 CEST (11:40 a.m. EDT). Welcome home!
NASA’s latest update: A post-landing news conference with managers at Kennedy Space Center is expected in approx. 30 minutes. A crew news conference is tentative and will be announced later. The ceremony to welcome the astronauts back will be held at 23:00 CEST (5 p.m. EDT) Tuesday at Houston’s Ellington Field.
Atlantis has completd its deorbit burn and will land at Edwards Air Force Base at 17:39 CEST (11:39 a.m. EDT).
Officials waved the first landing opportunity at Kennedy Space Center today due to poor weather conditions. Both Edwards Air Force Base (in California) and Kennedy will be considered for the next landing opportunities: 17:40 CEST (11:40 a.m. EDT) at Edwards, 17:48 CEST (11:48 a.m. EDT) at Kennedy and 19:17 CEST (1:17 p.m. EDT) at Edwards.
The weather in Florida will prevent landing again today. NASA is now targeting the first landing opportunity tomorrow (24/5) at Kennedy, which comes at 16:11 CEST (10:11 a.m. EDT). There is also one additional Kennedy landing opportunity tomorrow, as well as two at the alternative landing site at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
While astronauts were hard at work in space preparing Atlantis for landing, the ESA HST team got the opportunity to visit the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) - the American home for Hubble science. There is close collaboration between the European home for Hubble, the Space Telescope European Coordinating Facility (ST-ECF) and STScI. ESA HST Project Scientist & Mission Manager Antonella Nota hosted the meeting.
At STScI, there are 15 astronomers, 13 of who are embedded with the HST instrument teams. They have already started supporting SM4, by analysing and assessing the aliveness and functional tests (that were conducted from the STOCC at Goddard) for all instruments. Nota is part of the senior management ESA team here in the U.S. that represents the ESA perspective in the decision-making process for Hubble.
Bad weather in Florida will prevent Atlantis from landing today. The first opportunity for landing tomorrow will be at 15:16 CEST (9:16 a.m.). NASA is also preparing Edwards Air Force Base in California, in case bad weather persists in Florida. Follow NASA’s updates here: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/main/
Today, the STS-125 crew made landing preparations and spoke to U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland. Tomorrow’s weather forecast for Florida is not especially promising but NASA weather officials are keeping a close eye on it. The first landing opportunity will be at 16:00 CEST (10 am EDT).
This Servicing Mission was long awaited. What does it mean to you and to GSFC to get a final chance to improve and enhance Hubble so that it operates for another 5 - 7 years?
It means more than just to us here at GSFC, but to everyone who has an interest in our Universe. Hubble has been our portal to our own Universe. To me, what it really means is that we’re extending an icon and has the same deep meaning of the writings of Da Vinci and the first Galileo observations.
It’s a testament to the human/machine relationship and a forerunner to how to explore the Universe collectively, as a science community. It just doesn’t get any better than this!
Can you go over, briefly, some of the technological advancements and new tools that GSFC has developed and provided?
There’s something like 60 new ones of a tool kit of more than 120. Perhaps most interesting to me are the power tools that help us make very precise rotations of fasteners and screws. The new tools for ACS and for STIS - they were modification of things because these instruments were not intended to be serviced by humans in space. Those are special to me because the used them to make precise changes and change out instruments. These tools are totally new - a technological breakthrough; it bodes well for other even more challenging services beyond Hubble.
This question is certainly over-asked, but what has Hubble meant to the astronomical community and to the public at large?
What I always say, and I mean it, is that it’s the inspiration that allows our young people to catch the astronomy bug. Their generation has lived in the era of Hubble. They’ve seen the legacy of HST. That will build the pipeline for engineers and scientists. What HST’s done - even in our own solar system - has sometimes been overlooked; it’s captured dust storms on Mars and looked at the moon for science and resources. Hubble touches everyone; its images are science, written beautifully. That’s intangible - you can’t put a metric in it except for the faces of people seeing these images for the first time. They’re not seeing science fiction; they’re seeing science fact.
What about the European engineering contribution - the solar arrays over the years and now Solar Array Drive Electronics (SADE) and Solar Array Drive Mechanisms (SADM ) support.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has been a huge contributor - not only for hardware but also in the science. HST is truly and international mission. And, the Hubble community is truly international as well, including NASA/ESA and Canadian contributions. And, David Southwood (ESA Director of Science and Robotic Exploration) would say this better than I but the Hubble mission is as broadly reaching as anything we’ve ever done in space science and it bodes well for future endeavours like NASA/ESA’s James Webb Space Telescope. ESA has always been part of the equation and it’s a true partnership that makes it all happen.
The work on HST is going well so far but will you be on pins and needles until the EROs (Early Release Observations - the first images from the new/repaired instruments) are down and processed?
Of course and I’m just one user. Astronaut John Grunsfeld is a close friend so it’s been even more nerve-wracking and tense for me. He’s putting his life on the line in the name of science and exploration. Until they’re down and safe, we’ll all be nervous - that’s what working in space is all about.
But first light on the instruments - I think I’ll be dazzled!
I heard that you’ve sent e-mails to John Grunsfeld in space.
Yes, I have had e-mail contact with John. I sent him a picture of the Tycho Crater on the Moon to remind him of the science he’ll do with the new Wide Field Camera 3. I just think to myself, what better person to have up there?
Do you have a favourite Hubble image?
I have several and, I have to be frank, it was my dream in 1991 to observe the Moon in ultraviolet. I led the team that imaged Aristarchus in August of 2005 - just as NASA was preparing for Return to Flight. Aristarchus is a 14,000-foot fresh crater on the Moon that humans would love to go to. It’s a rich place in the history of our natural satellite. I worked on this with Ed Weiler (NASA’s Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate) and astronaut John Grunsfeld who is, himself, and astrophysicist. It was a stupendous day in the summer of 2005.
Also, the images of the Shoemaker-Levy impact at Jupiter. What an example of science and agility in space. To understand that with Hubble vision -wow- there’s the energy of the Universe, locally (in our Solar System). For me, I think the other one that’s most telling - and just the sheer beauty of it is the Hubble Deep Field; it bespeaks what we don’t yet know. We’re starting to open our eyes to the Universe that we thought we knew but we don’t. Astrophysics textbooks were meant to be changed and, as Ed Weiler said, HST is changing them! What an exciting time and what a magical Universe!
Watch a Hubblecast about what Hubble has taught us about our Solar System.
As SM4 winds down, STS-125 crew members are getting some well-deserved time off today. Later, they will begin preparations for Friday’s landing at Kennedy Space Center.
“Today begins the second Hubble revolution.” - David Leckrone, Senior Project Scientist for Hubble Space Telescope
Status Report 5 of the ESA HST support team at NASA GSFC: issued Tuesday 19.5.2009 shortly after successful in-orbit release of the HST from the Atlantis orbiter
HST SM 4: Servicing Mission accomplished - full mission success
After successful completion by the astronauts of five days of EVA (spacewalk) refurbishment/repair activities for HST, the telescope has just been released into orbit by the grapple fixture of the Atlantis Remote Manipulator System (robotic arm).
The unprecedented in-orbit repair of Hubble’s scientific instruments (not designed for in-orbit maintenance) proved to be extremely challenging, however, was successfully completed. It was the versatility of humans in space and the use of many new tools specifically developed for these repair tasks that allowed for such resounding success. However, space hardware always bears the potential for surprises. In one case, a bolt removal on a handrail on STIS showed no success, even using all tools available to the astronaut. Supported by real time on-ground validation of required forces, the astronaut had to apply “brut force” to remove the handrail by breaking off the bolt. Otherwise, the handrail would have obstructed the necessary placement of the STIS repair tool.
Functional testing has confirmed the successful repair of the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), though with the exception of its high-resolution channel, and of the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS).
The successful replacement and in-orbit functional validation testing of the following HST subsystems/units provides operational capabilities for many years, potentially extending the HST in-orbit life towards 2014 and, perhaps, beyond:
- The old batteries have been replaced by new modules;
- Of the three rate sensor units (RSU), two new ones have been installed and one refurbished unit has been implemented since a new unit would not fit in place;
- The Science Data Handling & Control Unit, of which the primary channel had failed shortly before the initially scheduled SM4 launch, has been replaced by a new unit.
- One of the three Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) units - the FGS2 has been replaced;
- Three large surface areas where the Multi-Layer Insulation (MLI) had severely degraded over the 19 years in orbit have been replaced by panel type of thermal insulation. Originally, only two replacements were scheduled, however, the astronauts proved to be quick in the tasks of the last EVA day and could accommodate a third area replacement. The removal by EVA of the crippled MLI proved to be tricky, with some pieces free floating into space.
In addition to these replacement tasks, the HST has been equipped at the berthing side with a new soft-capture and docking interface. This device will provide a fixture for a future robotic spacecraft to latch onto for de-commissioning Hubble.
At several points in time during the mission the EVA tasks seemed almost to be a “mission impossible”, however, the ingenuity of the supporting teams on the ground in combination with the versatility of the astronauts led always to resolutions to the problems experienced. The ESA HST team at the GSFC STOCC supported the NASA colleagues efficiently in all tasks related to the ESA hardware, the SADM and SADE. As anticipated, substantial solar array slippages have occurred during the EVA tasks. Where necessary, corrective actions have been commanded in order to maximize the time for EVA activities.
The great cooperation in this ESA/NASA Hubble mission has been a rewarding experience for all team members. This joint team is a real A1-team and the many years of SM4 mission preparations, including contingency procedures development, paid off. SM4 has been fully successful and expectations have been exceeded.
Hubble has now been successfully released into orbit for a new life promising many scientific discoveries. Equipped with new eyes representing most advanced detector capabilities, a new “brain”, stabilisation units and shiny new thermal panels, the telescope appears as a newborn star in orbit.
The ESA HST team says goodbye and good luck to Hubble and a safe return for Atlantis and the great astronauts!
The ESA HST team will follow the Hubble operations until the first solar array slews (turns) have been successfully completed on the in-orbit released telescope.