Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010

NASA Saves the Hubble

Nineteen years is a long time for a machine. The Hubble Space Telescope began its outer-space adventures in April 1990, but by the early 2000s its batteries were drained and its sensors weren't, well, sensing. NASA had repaired the telescope four times before, for mostly minor fixes. This time, the Hubble needed a complete makeover. After scrapping a 2004 repair mission, NASA changed its mind, and in 2009 a team of astronauts from the space shuttle Atlantis made their way out to the failing telescope. They used a giant armlike device to yank the Hubble out of its orbit and place it in the Atlantis' cargo bay. Five spacewalks later, the Hubble was released back into space. It will continue to operate through at least 2014. When the telescope finally gives out, it will likely be taken out of service.