The Hubble Space Telescope will be getting some much needed maintenance from the shuttle Atlantis and its crew. Equipped with over 100 specialized tools, the crew will be doing extensive work on Hubble, which includes replacing the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 with the new Wide Field Camera 3. They will also be adding a new instrument called the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS). In order to make room for this device, they will be removing the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR) and returning COSTAR to Earth. COSTAR was installed to correct design problems with Hubble’s primary mirror, but is now obsolete due to previous Hubble upgrades.
Hubble was launched in 1990 and has been providing some of the best photographs of the universe as well as groundbreaking science and astronomy. This mission is scheduled to be the last shuttle mission to the Hubble and considered very risky. Hopefully the repairs will be successful and will give Hubble many more years of operation or at least until the next space telescope, the James Webb Telescope, is launched. The JWT is scheduled to launch in 2014, but has already had numerous delays.
I have the utmost respect for the courageous astronauts of Atlantis who are conducting this mission. I wish them success and a safe journey home.
For more on this ongoing story, check out NASA’s web site for the Hubble servicing mission.