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Home>>Sci-Edu >> Space/Astronomy
13:59, May 19, 2009

U.S. astronauts install batteries for Hubble

Astronaut John Grunsfeld, on Atlantis' robot arm, installs a thermal blanket cover on the exterior of of the Hubble Space Telescope in this image from NASA TV May 18, 2009. Grunsfeld and fellow spacewalker Andrew Feustel replaced a battery and remove and replaced one of three guidance sensors on the Hubble Space Telescope during their planned five hour 45 minute spacewalk. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

A pair of U.S. astronauts on Monday conducted the fifth and final spacewalk of space shuttle Atlantis' Hubble-upgrade mission, installed fresh batteries, thermal shields and a sensor for Hubble Space Telescope.

Astronauts John Grunsfeld and Andrew Feustel left the shuttle's air lock at about 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT), almost an hour ahead of schedule. Their tasks concluded at 3:22 p.m. EDT (1932 GMT). During their walk in space, Grunsfeld and Feustel installed a battery group replacement, removed and replaced a Fine Guidance Sensors and three thermal blankets protecting Hubble's electronics.

The shuttle astronauts will set Hubble free Tuesday and return to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday.

During four previous spacewalks, astronauts installed a new camera and light-splitting spectrograph, replaced Hubble's positioning system, repaired two instruments and attached a docking ring so a robotic spacecraft can be sent to remove Hubble from orbit at the end of its operational lifetime.

U.S. shuttle Atlantis lifted off on May 11 on a mission to upgrade the 19-year-old Hubble Space Telescope for the last time.

Hubble, launched by NASA in 1990, was named after U.S. astronomer Edwin Hubble whose work revolutionized our understanding of the size and structure of the universe. After its first two months of tests in 1990, the initial images from Hubble were a blurry disappointment. A slight flaw in the telescope's main mirror -- barely the width of a human hair -- fouled the observatory's vision.

Astronaut Andrew Feustel (L) and John Grunsfeld, on Atlantis' robot arm, work on the Hubble Space Telescope with the coast of Africa in the background in this image from NASA TV May 18, 2009. Shuttle Atlantis astronauts returned to the Hubble Space Telescope on Monday for a final spacewalk to install fresh batteries, thermal shields and a sensor to pinpoint celestial targets for research. Grunsfeld and Feustel left the shuttle's air lock at about 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT), almost an hour ahead of schedule. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

In 1993, NASA sent a shuttle up to Hubble, where astronauts added corrective lenses -- essentially glasses -- to sharpen its vision. The result was crystal clear: 16 years of stunning cosmic photos followed.

Since that first orbital fix, astronauts returned to Hubble four more times; in 1997, 1999, 2002 and 2009.

Hubble has given the world amazing insight into the origins of our universe. Among its greatest discoveries are determining the age of the universe (13.7 billion years); finding that virtually all major galaxies have black holes at their center; discovering that the process of planetary formation is relatively common; detecting first ever organic molecule in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting another star; and providing evidence that the speed at which the universe is expanding is accelerating--caused by an unknown force that makes up more than 75 percent of the universe.


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