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  STS-125 / Atlantis: "The Final Visit to Hubble" [Flight Day Journal] (Page 2)

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Author Topic:   STS-125 / Atlantis: "The Final Visit to Hubble" [Flight Day Journal]
Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day 6

Hubble's 'eyeglasses' removed (con't)

Completing their first major task of the spacewalk at 9:54 a.m. CDT, John Grunsfeld and Drew Feustel removed the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement, or COSTAR, the corrective 'eyeglasses' installed during the first Hubble repair mission in 1993.
"This is really pretty historic, holding onto COSTAR," said Grunsfeld, just before the apparatus was removed from the telescope.

"That's right, this is big," replied Mike Massimino from inside Atlantis.

To ready COSTAR for removal, Grunsfeld unhooked four connectors, disconnected one ground strap and unscrewed two latches.

Feustel, riding Atlantis' robotic arm, slid the phone-booth size device out of Hubble and attached it to the temporary fixture that Grunsfeld had prepared earlier in the shuttle's payload bay.

COSTAR used small mirrors on deployable arms to provide corrected light beams to the first generation of Hubble instruments in 1993. With all scientific instruments designed on the ground to compensate for the primary mirror's "spherical aberration," COSTAR is no longer needed and will be stowed inside a canister for its return trip to Earth.


Photo credit: NASA TV

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day 6

Spectrograph installed

Filling the slot in the telescope that was opened by the removal of COSTAR, John Grunsfeld and Drew Feustel installed the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), effectively restoring spectroscopy to Hubble's scientific arsenal, and at the same time providing unique capabilities.

After retrieving COS from its carrier (the same in which COSTAR was stowed), Feustel slid the device in and engaged its two latches.

"Beautiful instrument," said Feustel.
Grunsfeld then hooked up its four connectors and a ground strap.
"Drew and John, excellent job getting COS inside and COSTAR out and safe to come home," conveyed Mike Massimino from inside Atlantis.
COS is designed to study the large-scale structure of the universe and how galaxies, stars and planets formed and evolved. As a spectrograph, it won't capture the majestic visual images that Hubble is known for, but rather COS will break up light emitting from an astronomical target to determine its temperature, density, chemical composition and velocity.

Photo credit: NASA TV

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day 6

Survey camera surgery

In one of the more delicate tasks of the mission, John Grunsfeld and Drew Feustel performed "surgery" on the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), which was rendered inoperable in 2007 when its back-up power system failed.

A direct repair of ACS' low-voltage power supply -- the suspected culprit behind its failure -- would require too much time, so engineers devised a plan to replace its entire electronics box, a repair never intended to be done in space.

Grunsfeld's first task was to install four guide studs that were used to fit a cutter over a screen-like grid. Tightening the bolts on the cutter caused a blade to slice off the grid's dozen legs, while also trapping the resulting pieces, so that Grunsfeld wouldn't come in contact with any sharp edges created in the process.

With the grid removed, Grunsfeld was able to access a cover plate, which also needed to be removed. To do so, he had to unscrew 32 fasteners, first by loosening them all, and then -- to ensure that none were lost -- by installing a fastener capture plate before releasing all the screws using a special mini power tool designed for this mission.

"Somehow, I don't think brain surgeons go 'yahoo' when they pull something out," said Grunsfeld as he loosened the 32 screws.

"This activity is dedicated to studying the behavior of tiny screws in space," he observed a few minutes later.

With the cover removed, Grunsfeld was able to access the cards to be replaced. Using a "wishbone" that Feustel retrieved, Grunsfeld mounted the tool on ACS that he'd use to extract the cards from the camera.

The extraction tool included a jaw to grip each card, which Grunsfeld secured by tightening bolts, and an elevator block that removed them, which he employed by securing another bolt.

He repeated the process four times, to remove each card.

"Card four is out, woo-hoo!," exclaimed Grunsfeld.
Completing the ACS repair was simplified by the design of the new electronics box. Instead of having to insert four new cards, Grunsfeld only had a single module to install and then connect to a the new low voltage supply.

Photo credit: NASA TV

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day 6

Third spacewalk ends

The 80th spacewalk in space shuttle history, the 21st dedicated to Hubble Space Telescope servicing and the third for the STS-125 mission came to a close at 3:11 p.m. CDT, six hours and 36 minutes after it started, as the shuttle's airlock began repressurizing to allow John Grunsfeld and Drew Feustel back inside.

Together, Grunsfeld and Feustel successfully removed Hubble's corrective COSTAR "eyeglasses", installed the new Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, and repaired the Advanced Camera for Surveys, the latter a task they were not originally scheduled to complete until the mission's fifth spacewalk.

This was Feustel's second spacewalk and the seventh for Grunsfeld, who is now ranked as the fourth most experienced spacewalker in the world with 51 hours and 28 minutes outside, all of which he dedicated to servicing the Hubble Space Telescope.


Photo credit: NASA TV

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day 6

The results of their work

The STS-125 crew ended their sixth day in space at 8:31 p.m. CDT.

In a test conducted from the Space Telescope Operations Control Center (STOCC) at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, engineers powered up the 851-pound Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) to make sure its power and data connection were operating after its installation during Saturday's spacewalk.

While the astronauts sleep, the team will conduct additional tests on each component to determine if they will need the crew to perform more work. The COS will be calibrated over the next several weeks.

The STOCC also tested the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), which was repaired during the same spacewalk. Although it passed an "aliveness" test earlier in the day, functional testing returned mixed results.

Testing of the wide-field channel, one of three modes of the ACS, was completed but engineers needed more time to review the data.

"As for the high-resolution channel, a different set of tests were running and they have run into an issue with power to the high-resolution channel," reported NASA commentator Pat Ryan on Saturday evening. "Not an unexpected development given that today's repairs were applied specifically to the wide-field channel and there were only hopes that it might apply to the high resolution channel."
Ryan emphasized that these initial results should be not be seen as a "failure", as additional analysis is needed after the wide-field channel data is better understood.

Update: Among the notes uplinked to the crew for Flight Day 7 was an update on the results of the ACS functional test as it related to the wide-field channel (WFC):

"...early test results say we have an operational ACS with a functioning WFC detector."

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day 7

Flight Day Seven

New York native Mike Massimino, who will be part of today's spacewalking two man team, awoke with his STS-125 crewmates at 4:31 a.m. CDT to the song "New York State of Mind".
"It's great to hear that song by a fellow New Yorker, Billy Joel," replied Massimino. "I know it's coming from my favorite fellow New Yorker, my wife, the love of my life. Thanks so much for that, my kids as well, my wonderful children."

"I appreciate the song. I appreciate all your support. You're in my heart and mind always. I can't wait to see you in a few days. Thanks very much."

Massimino and Mike Good, referred to by their nicknames "Mass" and Bueno" to avoid any confusion, will perform the mission's fourth spacewalk, to repair and upgrade the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), which stopped working in 2004 due to power failures, and install a stainless steel blanket on Hubble's exterior to provide additional thermal protection, replacing existing multi-layer insulation that degraded over the past 19 years since the observatory was launched.

Photo credit: NASA TV

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day 7

Fourth spacewalk begins

At 8:45 a.m. CDT, Mike "Mass" Massimino, wearing a spacesuit with horizontal red stripes, and Mike "Bueno" Good, wearing the suit with diagonal "barber pole" red stripes, began the STS-125 mission's 4th spacewalk.

This is their second time outside together, having also performed the mission's second spacewalk.

The bulk of this spacewalk will be spent repairing the Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph -- a task that has been compared to brain surgery.


Photo credit: NASA TV

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day 7

Flying off the handle

Mike "Mass" Massimino, assisted by Mike "Bueno" Good, set out to perform surgery in space, repairing Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), which hasn't worked since 2004 due to power failures.

The repair calls for replacing an electronics card, a task complicated by the fact that it was never designed to be accessed in orbit.

To get to the card, a cover plate had to be removed, however there were several obstacles in its way. First, Massimino needed to remove a clamp and a handrail that were attached to the cover plate. Both of these required the use of special tools to catch the fasteners that held the pieces in place.

The clamp removal tool fit over its fasteners and caught them as they were released; the handrail tool was designed to do the same.

The clamp came off as expected. The handrail posed a problem: one of its four fasteners refused to come out.

"I don't know if we're going to be able to get it, it just looks really stripped," Massimino reported.
The more he tried to release the screw with his pistol grip power tool, the more Massimino eroded the specially designed bit. To try to get a better fit, flight controllers had him remove the capture tool and try the screw exposed.
"I don't know if we're going to be able to get in there again. It looks like its already galled up," Massimino described.
Mission Control then suggested he replace the bit on the power tool with a back-up.
"I'm not sure if the new bit... do we have a plan if the new bit doesn't work? Can we try it while keeping the handrail on or something?"
Massimino was right, the new bit had no effect, despite his pushing into the now stripped-screw as hard he could. With no way to fit the cover plate while the handrail was still in place, Massimino gathered some additional tools to try removing the brackets that held the rail.

Before attempting that, however the idea was suggested to remove all the handrail's fasteners (except for the stripped screw) and then have Massimino pull on the rail, essentially breaking off the bolt and rail out of the way.

"That sounds like a good idea. I'd be happy to try that," said Massimino.
NASA engineers at Goddard Space Flight Center, demonstrating the approach on a training model, found it would take 60 pounds of force to pull the handrail free.
"I think you've got that in you," said Drew Feustel from inside Atlantis.

"I can try," replied Massimino.

Removing the remaining good bolt and taping a capping plate and the stripped screw's opening so as to minimize debris, Massimino yanked hard on the rail.
"There we go, I got it," confirmed Massimino. "You can see the bolt is still in there."
With the rail clear, Massimino could move onto the next obstacle: the cover plate and its 111 screws.

Photo credit: NASA TV

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day 7

Spacewalk unscrewed

With a stuck handrail handily disposed, spacewalker Mike Massimino, assisted by Mike Good, could proceed with the repair of the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) by removing its cover plate.

The plate is held in place by 111 tiny screws.

To ensure that none of fasteners floated away -- a potential debris hazard for Hubble's sensitive optics -- a special board was designed to line up with each screw and, once attached to the cover plate with the help of guide studs, capture each screw behind an acrylic guard.

That installation, which included removing four of plate's fasteners to attach the guide studs, went smoothly.

Massimino was next expected to use a mini power tool to release the remaining 107 fasteners and washers.

"It's not turning for me," reported Massimino, describing the mini power tool.
Although it seemingly had power (a green light was lit on its battery pack), the tool wouldn't turn. Flight controllers advised Massimino to return to Atlantis' airlock to retrieve a spare power tool and replenish his oxygen supply to extend the spacewalk, which was now running two hours behind schedule.
"Alright, now can we get to work?" joked Massimino, as he arrived back at the fastener capture plate.
Working screw by screw, Massimino employed the mini power tool to loosen each. The capture plate was color-coded to correspond with red, blue, yellow and silver labeled tool bits, each matching a different size and type screw.

Two of the screws were hidden behind a decal identifying the STIS' center of gravity. The fastener plate included a tool to cut through that sticker.

"It didn't really cut, it kind of peeled it off, but I think maybe we'll worry about it when we get there," said Massimino.
That label did present a problem but, just as the ground was offering suggestions on what tools he could use to punch through, Massimino was able to get to the screw.
"Never mind, never mind," he said, interrupting the flight controllers, "I got it!"
From that point on it was smooth sailing... or screwing. Releasing the 107th fastener, Massimino saw the plate move.
"Oh, I think the board's loose," he radioed.

"Yeah, I saw it come loose, so it is free," Good agreed.

Removing the clamps they installed, the board came free, and with it the STIS cover plate that it was designed to remove.

With the target of their work now exposed, the spacewalkers stowed the plate for its return to Earth and turned their focus to replacing the electronics card.


Photo credit: NASA TV

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day 7

Cards swapped, spacewalkers relieved

With the cover removed, Mike Massimino was finally able to access the electronics card - a low voltage power supply - that he and Mike Good were to replace.

To actually remove the old card, Massimino used a card extraction tool, just as John Grunsfeld did during the mission's third spacewalk. He then stored it in a transport case, detached the extraction tool from the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) and used the tool to unpack and install the new card. He also installed the new card's simpler cover, which only required him to engage two locking pins (rather than 111 screws).

Outside for more than six hours, flight controllers advised Massimino and Good that their planned second task, replacing thermal insulation on Hubble's exterior, would be deferred and they were to clean-up to come back inside.

"I just want to -- while you're closing the doors here -- tell you how good a job you did today and how proud we are of you," radioed STS-125 commander Scott Altman to the two spacewalkers. "I want you to take a look around because your spacewalk with Hubble is about to come to an end. We're bringing you in as soon as you close the doors."

"It was magnificent," replied Massimino, as he and Good worked to close the doors on Hubble. "It is great to work with the world going by and being out here with my friend Mike Good is a pleasure."

"It is really awesome to be out here," added Good. "The NBL [neutral buoyancy lab] is great, but this is completely awesome out here. It's a lot of work but, well worth it."

"It's a real privilege to see what we've seen and to work on this magnificent machine," Massimino concluded. "I couldn't be any more grateful for the opportunity."

Just moments later, Mission Control radioed to give the good news that STIS had passed its "aliveness" test and that its functional test was underway.

Photo credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day 7

Fourth spacewalk ends

Although today's spacewalk lasted longer than originally planned -- surpassing the record-setting outing that he and Mike Good made on Friday, Mike Massimino was still reluctant to come back inside space shuttle Atlantis.
"It's time for me to go inside?" he asked, while still outside the airlock.

"It's time for you to go inside," replied John Grunsfeld from inside the orbiter.

"Okay, well, it's just, it's turned into a beautiful day out here. I'll take one last look and then go," Massimino resigned.

The astronauts completed their mission's fourth spacewalk in eight hours and two minutes, ranking today's EVA as the sixth longest in history (and pushing their first spacewalk together -- this mission's second -- to ninth).

Despite several problems, which was the reason that their spacewalk ran long, Massimino and Good successfully repaired the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), which hadn't worked since power failures took it offline in 2004.

I'd just like to say congratulations," offered spacewalk coordinator John Grunsfeld. "You brought STIS back to life, one of the workhorses putting physics back into astronomy for the Hubble Space Telescope. Fantastic job!"

"I had a whole list of people I wanted to thank who worked on the STIS stuff," replied Massimino. "I'm not really sure, I don't want to leave anybody out because I got the feeling there was a zillion people down there working to figure out how to get around these problems that we encountered."

Today's spacewalk was the 22nd dedicated to upgrading the Hubble Space Telescope. It was Good's second EVA and Massimino's fourth.

Photo credit: NASA TV

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day 7

Flying off the handle, revisited

The 18-inch handrail that spacewalker Mike Massimino literally tore off the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) -- inside of the Hubble Space Telescope -- was held on by a single stainless-steel, 3/16 socket head cap screw that was approximately 1.25 inches long.

If that doesn't sound daunting, consider the results of a ground test at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland that quickly preceded Massimino's pull in orbit.

"We had the handrail and we had it mounted on a platform. When we actually ran the test on it, we hooked a cable to it with a force gauge and bent the arm. I got to see the video of that... there was a fair bit of stored energy in that."

"It finally broke at a tip force of 60 pounds. When 60 pounds was applied to it, this thing was bent up at about a 45 degree angle and when it took off, it just went BAM!, disappeared out of the field of view of the camera, and then went PA-CHOING! back the other way."

"So, we were a little concerned," said Hubble Program manager Preston Burch.

Burch later said that he and his team, while planning this mission, never really thought about someone the physical size of Mike Massimino wrenching a piece of the hardware off of the telescope.
"He was, I suspect, pretty upset with the telescope, just as we were trying to get it apart. So I think his adrenalin level was probably pretty high."

STS-125 Lead Spacewalk Officer Tomas Gonzalez-Torres with handrail and screw. Photo: collectSPACE

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Flight Day 7

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day 8

Flight Day Eight

STS-125 commander Scott Altman and his crew began their eighth day aboard Atlantis to the "Sound of Your Voice" by the Barenaked Ladies at 4:31 a.m. CDT.
"That's a great wake up," radioed Altman. "It's a great day here in space looking out the windows, and we're looking forward to a great EVA."
On tap today is the flight's fifth and final spacewalk. John Grunsfeld and Drew Feustel will work to replace the Hubble Space Telescope's final set of batteries, a sensor needed for precisely pointing the telescope to gaze at its celestial targets, and thermal blankets on its exterior.

Photo credit: NASA

Robert Pearlman
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Flight Day 8

Fifth spacewalk starts

The fifth and final scheduled spacewalk of the STS-125 mission began at 7:20 a.m. CDT as John Grunsfeld and Drew Feustel took their spacesuits to internal power.

Their third spacewalk together, Grunsfeld (wearing the suit with solid red stripes) and Feustel (wearing the solid white suit) exited the airlock just before an orbital sunrise.

"Here comes the Sun," said Grunsfeld, who was first to go outside.
The spacewalkers first task today is to complete replacing the Hubble Telescope's six nickel-hydrogen batteries. Divided between two modules, the first three were changed out during STS-125's second spacewalk.

Photo credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day 8

Batteries included, again

John Grunsfeld and Drew Feustel have completed the first major task of this spacewalk, replacing the second trio of Hubble's six batteries.

Grunsfeld, riding the shuttle's robotic arm, removed the old battery module from inside the telescope's Bay 3, while Feustel worked to retrieve the new battery from its carrier in Atlantis' payload bay. The two spacewalkers then met to swap batteries, so that Grunsfeld could install the new one while Feustel stowed the old module for its return to Earth.

"Nice hand off, Drew," said Grunsfeld after taking hold of the new battery.

"You too, John," replied Feustel.

"Nice hand off, Megan," repeated Grunsfeld, this time referring to Megan McArthur, who was at the controls of the robotic arm.

"You guys are doing all the work," McArthur, responded.

With the batteries installed, Grunsfeld and Feustel were moving on to their next challenge, replacing Hubble's fine guidance sensor.

Photo credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day 8

Fine work replacing a Fine Guidance Sensor

John Grunsfeld and Drew Feustel have removed and replaced one of Hubble's three Fine Guidance Sensors (FGS-2), used to provide pointing information for the telescope. The sensors also serve as a scientific instrument for determining the precise position and motion of stars, known as astrometry.

To remove the old sensor, Grunsfeld and Feustel worked together to unhook nine connectors. Then Grunsfeld, riding the shuttle's robotic arm, need to released one latch before installing a handle that he would use to carefully lift the sensor out. The latch, however, was secured tightly. Retrieving a ratchet, Grunsfeld positioned himself to apply torque.

"Something happened," reported Grunsfeld as he turned the ratchet.

"I think you got it," replied Mike Massimino from inside Atlantis.

"You got it," agreed Feustel.

"Yep, and its moving," observed Grunsfeld. "Yay!"

He carried the old sensor to a protective enclosure inside Atlantis' cargo bay, where Feustel was waiting to assist him in stowing it and retrieving the new sensor.

Grunsfeld then carried the new sensor back to the worksite and slid it into place.

"All the way in," said Grunsfeld.

"Very smooth guys, that was beautiful," Massimino replied.

Grunsfeld engaged the latch and then he and Feustel reconnected the nine connectors.

Hubble's three Fine Guidance Sensors can hold the telescope steady for scientific observations over long periods of time. The system serves as the telescope's pointing control system and has a precision comparable to being able to hold a laser beam focused on a dime 200 miles away, the distance from Washington D.C. to New York City.

The FGS installed by Grunsfeld and Feustel had previously been returned to Earth on the third Hubble servicing mission in December 1999. Refurbished, the unit now has an enhanced in-orbit alignment capability over the original FGS design.


Photo credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day 8

A NOBLe achievement

Having started their spacewalk an hour earlier than planned, John Grunsfeld and Drew Feustel were given the go to install not only the replacement thermal blanket scheduled for their spacewalk but also the blanket missed during the fourth spacewalk and yet another that was considered a get-ahead.

To install the New Outer Layer Blankets (NOBL), the spacewalkers needed to first peel off the old insulation, which included unhooking a wire loop, removing seven clips and cutting two ground wires.

Though the plan was to keep them intact, the old blankets, exposed to space for 19 years, fell apart as they were being removed. Some pieces floated away.

"Another piece just went by my WVS [helmet cam], probably three by three, going out over the port wing," Feustel reported.

"Yep, there goes the other big piece. Lost a big one."

"Oh yeah," said Megan McArthur from her place at the robotic arm controls.

"It looks like it went over the solar array," observed Feustel.

The new blankets were attached using four latches and a pressure sensitive adhesive, which Grunsfeld activated by pressing a roller tool against its surface.
"Rolling, rolling, rolling..." sang Grunsfeld, "come on everybody, sing along!"
Grunsfeld and Feustel first installed the Bay 5 cover, which was a planned task for this spacewalk, and then Bay 8, which was deferred from Sunday's EVA.

Finally, they applied Bay 7's NOBL, which was the final improvement to the Hubble Space Telescope to be included as part of the mission.

"That's about all the new equipment we had to install. You guys have done it all," radioed Dan Burbank from Mission Control.

"Sounds great Dan, a great effort all around," replied commander Scott Altman from inside Atlantis. "Did you hear that guys, you've done it all."

"We've done it all," said Feustel, emphasizing the "we".

"Not yet, I'm still working!" added Grunsfeld, as he made the final connections on the final blanket. "But it's been a great achievement up here."


Photo credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day 8

Fifth (and final) spacewalk ends

The fifth and final spacewalk of the STS-125 mission ended at 2:22 p.m. CDT, seven hours and two minutes after it began.

In total, Atlantis' astronauts devoted 36 hours and 56 minutes to spacewalks in service of the Hubble Space Telescope, bringing the total EVA time spent upgrading the observatory since 1990 to 166 hours and six minutes.

On today's spacewalk, John Grunsfeld and Drew Feustel completed all the tasks set out for them and more, installing batteries, replacing a guidance sensor, and adding new thermal covers to the telescope.


Photo credit: NASA TV
As the final spacewalk planned to service the observatory, Grunsfeld became the last person to lay his hands on Hubble, although it didn't come as he may have expected.
"John, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop..." warned Feustel, as Grunsfeld moved underneath the telescope, his suit's life support backpack knocking off a small component.

"We liberated a small piece of something off the end of that," reported Feustel.

The small black item bounced back into the payload bay, allowing the astronauts to recover it and determine it was a cap off of Hubble's low gain antenna.
"Oh no, I hope the antenna is okay. I feel terrible," expressed Grunsfeld, as he realized what he had done.
Fortunately, the antenna appeared to be no worse for Grunsfeld's wear. Ground controllers were able to quickly test its receiving capability, and relayed to the astronauts that it was working fine.

As a precaution, they had Grunsfeld deploy a thermal cover through which it could still function.

"Consider it a goodbye kiss, John," Mike Good advised from Atlantis' flight deck.

"Thanks," responded Grunsfeld. "Now, we truly have deployed every payload."

Before going inside, Grunsfeld paused to reflect on the mission as a whole.
This is a really tremendous adventure that we've been on, a very challenging mission. Hubble isn't just a satellite, it's about humanity's quest for knowledge.

There are a few people that are very special to Hubble that I'd like to thank. Lyman Spitzer and John Bacall, both deceased, but without whom we wouldn't have a space telescope for this amazing adventure. Others who are still with us and who have been very productive, scientist Steve Beckwith and AURA president Bill Smith; Senator Mikulski and Ed Weiler, without whom we wouldn't have a servicing mission and of course, Mike Griffin.

I think we'd all agree that without [Frank Cepollina] this wouldn't have happened. A tour de force of tools and human ingenuity on this mission in particular.

As Arthur C. Clarke says, 'The only way of finding the limits of the impossible, is by going beyond them into the impossible.' And on this mission, we tried some things that many people said was impossible: fixing STIS, repairing ACS, achieving all the contents that we have in this mission. We've achieved that and we wish Hubble the very best.

It is really the sign of the great country that we live in that we are able to do things like this on a marvelous spaceship, like space shuttle Atlantis. And I am convinced if we can solve problems like repairing Hubble, getting to space, in the servicing we do, traveling 17,500 mph around the Earth, we can achieve other great things like solving our energy problems and our climate problems, all things that are in the middle of NASA's prime and core values.

As Drew and I go into the airlock, I want to wish Hubble it's own set of adventures and with the new instruments we installed, that it may unlock further mysteries of the universe.

Before I go in, I just want to say that these were three terrific EVAs and five altogether with all of us, and I am just really proud to be a part of this. I want to thank everybody for supporting me.

Atlantis' skipper, Scott Altman added his comments about the flight.
The sign of a great crew is that the commander has nothing left to do usually, and that is the case here. I think a lot of great things have been said. I appreciate all the work that we've had together, the coming together from across the country to support this mission and really the whole world watching Hubble, enjoying its downlink of images and its advances of scientific knowledge.

It is an incredible partnership we experienced up here, doing the spacewalks with four different spacewalkers, arm operators and taking care of the shuttle. It has been a great thrill. I am very proud of the crew, and also of the whole team.

As the spacewalkers entered the airlock, Hubble's high gain antennas were commanded to re-extend, in preparation for the telescope to be redeployed on Tuesday.

Photo credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day 8

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Flight Day 9

Flight Day Nine

Atlantis' crew woke this morning at 3:31 a.m. CDT to "Lie in Our Graves" by the Dave Matthews Band, played for Megan McArthur.

The STS-125 crew will bid farewell to the Hubble Space Telescope today. McArthur, operating the shuttle's robotic arm, will reach out and grapple the telescope, lifting it out of the payload bay. After ground controllers command open the telescope's aperture door, McArthur will deploy the observatory back into orbit.

Final release of Hubble Space Telescope is scheduled for 7:53 a.m.


Megan McArthur at the controls of Atlantis' robotic arm. Photo credit: NASA

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Flight Day 9

Hubble in hand

STS-125 mission specialist Megan McArthur, using space shuttle Atlantis' robotic arm, grappled the Hubble Space Telescope at 5:45 a.m. CDT in preparation for its release.

Photo credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day 9

Hubble unplugged

At 6:26 a.m. CDT, Megan McArthur used the shuttle's robotic arm to unberth the Hubble Space Telescope from its perch atop the flight support system platform where it was attached for the past week of upgrades.

McArthur moved the observatory to a hover position above Atlantis' payload bay to await its release back into orbit, which is now targeted for 7:57 a.m.


Photo credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day 9

Hubble away

At 7:57 a.m. CDT, Megan McArthur released Atlantis' grapple on the Hubble Space Telescope, marking the last time a human tended spacecraft was expected to have "hands-on" the 19-year old satellite.

With the telescope clear of the shuttle, STS-125 commander Scott Altman and pilot Greg Johnson fired Atlantis' thrusters to slowly back the orbiter away, beginning their journey back to Earth, with landing scheduled for Friday.

"Hubble has been released. It's safely back on its journey of exploration as we begin the steps to conclude ours," radioed Altman as Atlantis was about 300 feet away from the telescope.

"Looking back at this mission, it has been an incredible journey for us as well. I think it has demonstrated the triumph that humans can have when they overcome challenges that are presented to them."

"Not everything went as we planned but we planned a way to work around everything and with the whole team pulling together -- Goddard, Houston, Kennedy -- to get us here we've been able to do some incredible things together."

"And that's the thing I think about Hubble -- we've done it together and now Hubble can continue on its own, exploring the cosmos and bringing them home to us as we head for home in a few days."

Later this morning, the astronauts will use the same robotic arm they used to release Hubble, coupled with an extension boom, to give their ship's heat shield a final inspection for any damage it may have sustained from micrometeorites during the past eight days in space.

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Flight Day 9

Late inspection completed early

After performing a final separation maneuver at 8:28 a.m. CDT taking them out of the vicinity of the Hubble Telescope, the crew of STS-125 spent the remainder of the day inspecting Atlantis' exterior heat shield for damage from orbital debris.

The crew used the shuttle's robotic arm to operate the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS) for the scheduled late inspection. Completing the survey early, the astronauts returned the boom to its berth.

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Flight Day 9

Hubble's last visit to be relived in 3D

Eight pairs of eyes were trained on the Hubble Space Telescope on Tuesday, May 19 as it was released into orbit after spending a week berthed in space shuttle Atlantis' payload bay. Seven of those stares belonged to the crew of STS-125, who worked to upgrade the satellite during that time.

The eighth captured the view for the rest of us: an IMAX 3D camera.


Photo credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day 10

Flight Day Ten

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five year mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

The STS-125 crew woke up at 3:03 a.m. CDT to the theme from the original television series, Star Trek.

"That was a great wake up call for the whole crew," said John Grunsfeld, a self-professed fan of the show.

"I'd just like to say, everyone on the great planet Earth, live long and prosper."

The song was played for the entire crew, who will spend most of their day enjoying some well-deserved time off.

At 9:26 a.m., the crew will answer questions from the media located at different NASA centers. At 11:06 a.m., Atlantis' astronauts will make a ship-to-ship call to Expedition 19 aboard the International Space Station.


Megan McArthur, Mike Massimino (center) and Andrew Feustel share a meal. Photo credit: NASA

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Flight Day 10

Downlinks and power downs

With the forecast that weather conditions at Kennedy Space Center may keep the crew in space for an extra day, flight controllers had the STS-125 astronauts begin to power down non-critical systems to preserve the cryogenic oxygen and hydrogen that feeds into Atlantis' fuel cells.
"We're all hoping for the best and that we'll get you home on Friday," Dan Burbank informed commander Scott Altman.
Enjoying some time off, the astronauts took part in several downlinks, answering questions from the press and chatting with crew aboard the International Space Station during a ship-to-ship call. Later today, the crew was expected to participate in a private call from President Barack Obama.

NASA today also released the video captured during Atlantis' launch by cameras attached to its twin solid rocket boosters.

 

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Flight Day 10

President Obama calls the crew

At 4:45 p.m. CDT, President Barack Obama called the crew of space shuttle Atlantis from the Oval Office.

To listen to the audio of this call, click here.


Photo credit: The White House / Pete Souza

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Flight Day 10

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Flight Day 11

Flight Day Eleven

The STS-125 crew woke at 2:04 a.m. CDT to "Cantina Band," one of composer John Williams' scores from "Star Wars."
"Thanks a lot for that loony wake up song," radioed mission specialist Megan McArthur.
The song was played for all of Atlantis' crew, who will spend the day preparing the shuttle for their return home.

Already, the astronauts have completed a test of orbiter's reaction control system (RCS) steering thrusters, which will help control Atlantis' attitude and velocity after the deorbit burn. They also tested the aerosurfaces and flight control systems that will be used once the shuttle enters the atmosphere.

Their first landing opportunity is scheduled for 9:00:31 a.m. CDT on Friday at the Kennedy Space Center. A second landing opportunity is available one orbit later at 10:39 a.m.

Weather though, may delay the crew's return to Saturday due to the forecast predicting a low-cloud ceiling, rain and thunderstorms in the vicinity of the Shuttle Landing Facility.


Photo credit: NASA

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Flight Day 11

Weather or not, ready to go

As the crew aboard Atlantis prepared for landing on Friday, mission managers were closely monitoring a low pressure system that brought 16 inches of rain in three days to the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Forecasters reported the system was slowly moving away but it could still bring more rain, possible thunderstorms and winds that could violate the shuttle's flight rules. The two Friday landing opportunities are at 9:00 and 10:39 a.m. CDT.

Back in space, the crew testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, chaired by Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland. She, and former payload specialist Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, talked with the crew.

Atlantis' astronauts were the first to testify from space in a Senate hearing. ISS Expedition 11 flight engineer John Phillips gave the first congressional testimony from space on June 14, 2005, when he appeared by live video before the House of Representatives Science Committee, Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics.

In addition to the Senate, the STS-125 crew also talked with reporters from ABC, FOX, CBS, NBC and CNN.

Before retiring at 5:01 p.m., the astronauts continued preparations for their return home, assuming the weather would cooperate.

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Flight Day 12

Flight Day Twelve

The crew of STS-125 woke at 1:01 a.m. CDT for what could be their last day in space.
"Good morning, Atlantis!" radioed capcom Shannon Lucid from Mission Control after playing "The Galaxy Song" from Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life". The song includes the lyric:

Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving and revolving at 900 miles an hour...

"We hope that soon you will remember what it is like to stand on a planet," she added.

"We're looking forward to that as well," replied STS-125 commander Scott Altman.

Whether Atlman and his six crewmates land today will rely on the weather.

Currently, the forecast is "no go" due to a prediction of broken clouds at 4,000 feet and a chance of thunderstorms within 30 nautical miles of Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility.

STS-125 Entry Flight Director Norm Knight and his Mission Control team will reassess the weather before giving the final "go" or "no go" for Atlantis' deorbit burn.

The astronauts have two landing opportunities today. The first, on their 165th orbit, begins with a burn of their orbital maneuvering engines at 7:49:16 a.m. to bring Atlantis to a touchdown in Florida at 9:00:31 a.m.

Their second chance comes one orbit later, starting with the deorbit burn at 9:33:41 a.m., resulting in a landing at 10:39:18 a.m.

The crew is scheduled to begin deorbit preparations at 3:50 a.m. and close the payload bay doors at 5:10 a.m.

Should managers wave off landing today, the next four opportunities will be on Saturday with two chances at Kennedy and two at Edwards Air Force Base in California.


Photo credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day 12

First landing attempt waved off

Citing the "dynamic weather" in the vicinity of the Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility, STS-125 Entry Flight Director Norm Knight has waved off today's first landing attempt in Florida.
"We are going to wave off this attempt," capcom Greg H. Johnson informed Atlantis' crew. "The weather is just not clearing up at the Cape at this point."

"We appreciate you making the early call," commander Scott Altman replied.

The crew will hold in their entry timeline, awaiting further updates. If the weather improves, a second landing opportunity today is available with a deorbit burn at 9:33:41 a.m CDT, resulting in a 10:39:18 a.m. touchdown.

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Flight Day 12

Atlantis to remain aloft another day

With weather conditions continuing to be poor at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, STS-125 Entry Flight Director Norm Knight called off today's second and final landing attempt for space shuttle Atlantis.
We're going to formally wave off for the day," reported capcom Greg H. Johnson to the crew. "The weather is at the KSC real moist, unstable."

"KSC is 'no go' and forecast 'no go' both due to thunderstorms within 30 [miles] and low ceiling, and showers were consistently popping up off shore and over land. We don't see any value in waiting two or three hours, so we're going to wave off for the day."

"We know you looked at it hard," replied STS-125 commander Scott Altman. "We appreciate you making the call early and understand. We'll be looking to work with you as we back out [of deorbit preparations] per your direction.

The next landing opportunities for Atlantis are on Saturday with two chances each at Kennedy and Edwards Air Force Base in California.

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Flight Day 13

Flight Day Thirteen

After weather in Florida prevented the crew of Atlantis from landing on Friday, the STS-125 astronauts are readying for another attempt today. The crew awoke at 12:01 a.m. CDT to "Where My Heart Will Take Me" performed by Russell Watson.

There are three landing opportunities available for Atlantis at both Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Edwards Air Force Base in California today.

The Kennedy weather forecast is expected to improve somewhat, but there is a chance that conditions in the vicinity of the Shuttle Landing Facility will be unfavorable.

The Edwards forecast is favorable for all three opportunities.

The crew is scheduled to begin preparations for the first attempt at 3:00 a.m. Their first major activity, closing the payload bay doors, is set to occur at 4:22 a.m.

For the first opportunity to land in Florida, the crew would execute a deorbit burn at 7:01 a.m. and land at 8:15 a.m. The second Kennedy attempt calls for a deorbit burn at 8:45 a.m. and landing at 9:54 a.m. The crew's third chance to return to the east coast spaceport would begin with a burn at 10:29 a.m. and end with a landing at 11:33 a.m.

The first landing in California would start with a deorbit burn at 8:29 a.m., and result in a landing at 9:45 a.m. The second opportunity at Edwards begins at 10:11 a.m. with a deorbit burn and culminates in an 11:23 a.m. landing. The third and final chance to land today would have the deorbit burn at 11:55 a.m. and touchdown on the west coast dry lakebed at 1:02 p.m.


Photo credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day 13

Payload bay doors closed

Having being given the "go" by Mission Control, the STS-125 crew has closed space shuttle Atlantis' payload bay doors in preparation for their return to Earth today.

They are now working on transitioning the shuttle's flight software from orbit to reentry configuration.

When -- and where -- they will land is still to be decided by flight controllers, as the weather at Kennedy Space Center in Florida is still being assessed.

"We're continuing to look at the weather. We'd call it marginal at this point," capcom Greg H. Johnson reported to commander Scott Altman. "Our plan is to progress a little further into the deorbit prep timeline [than yesterday]."

"Okay, copy that," replied Altman. Our tag-up points will be a little further along in the timeline."

A decision on the first landing opportunity will be made before the crew begin donning their pressure suits, planned for 5:38 a.m. CDT.

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Flight Day 13

Suiting up

Atlantis' crew has been told by Mission Control that they can begin donning the orange pressure suits that they last wore during launch.
"You are go to suit up," reported capcom Greg H. Johnson. "Our next milestone, where we want to sync back up, is fluid loading."

"Copy that, we'll press ahead to fluid loading," STS-125 commander Scott Altman replied.

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Flight Day 13

First landing opportunity waved

The "dynamic" weather conditions at Kennedy Space Center have forced flight controllers to wave off the first opportunity for Atlantis to return to Florida today.
"We are keeping our options open," explained capcom Gregory H. Johnson to commander Scott Altman. "We are keeping two possible TIGs open."
The next two TIGs, or time of ignition, for Atlantis' deorbit burn, would occur at 8:29 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. CDT, resulting in first an Edwards Air Force Base landing in California at 9:45 a.m., or Kennedy at 9:54.
"We'd like to work toward the Edwards' TIG timing wise, to keep all our options open, however we're going to look very closely at KSC and see what daytime heating does for us," radioed Johnson.

"Okay, thank you, we'll be working so we can make Edwards," replied STS-125 commander Scott Altman.


Photo credit: NASA TV

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Flight Day 13

Atlantis to remain aloft another day, again

Today's remaining attempts to land space shuttle Atlantis have been waved off by Mission Control, in the hope that the poor weather at Kennedy Space Center will improve enough for a return to Florida on Sunday.
"The weather at KSC has not cooperated with us today," said capcom Gregory H. Johnson. "There is a chance we could land tomorrow at KSC and we're going to keep that option open. We are waving off for the day."

"Edwards remains good and it is a good option for both Sunday and Monday, should the weather at KSC turn out not favor us."

There are four opportunities for Atlantis to land on Sunday, two each at Kennedy and Edwards Air Force Base in California. The first chance to return to the east coast spaceport will be at 9:11 a.m. CDT.

While the crew worked to back out of their deorbit preparations so to remain in space another day, sensors indicated a possible ice build up in the orbiter's flash evaporator system and coolant lines, used to thermally regulate the shuttle while its payload bay doors are closed.

Flight controllers initially advised the crew to keep the cargo hold closed while they assessed the situation, but once Atlantis' radiators were reactivated, the "go" was given to open the payload bay, which then proceeded as normal.

Continued on page three...


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