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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on mission STS-125, or HST-SM4 Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission 4

At 2:01:56 p.m EDT Monday, Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off above Florida on its two day journey to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to make repairs.

During the 11 day repair mission to the HST, astronauts will perform five spacewalks, installing two new instruments and repairing two others. The two new instruments are the US$126 million Wide Field Camera 3 and the $81 million Cosmic Origins Spectrograph. The crew has set out to repair the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, Advanced Camera for Surveys which are malfunctioning. The mission will also see the installation of a new Science Instrument Command and Data Handling Unit to replace the existing one.

"On Servicing Mission 4, we're going to give Hubble another extreme makeover. This makeover will be the best one yet because we will outfit Hubble with the most powerful and advanced imaging and spectrographic instruments available and we will extend Hubble's operating lifetime for five additional years," said Program Manager Preston Burch.

Scott D. Altman is the mission commander of the fifth and final mission to service the HST. This will be his fourth space flight, and his second one to service the telescope. John Grunsfeld, Michael Massimino, two of the crews space walkers has also been to HST previously. Andrew Feustel and Michael Good are the other two spacewalkers. Pilot Gregory C. Johnson, and flight engineer Megan McArthur complete the crew's complement.

Space shuttle Endeavour is on standby due to an increased probability of an impact with space debris compared to previous missions. "There are very small odds we would, in fact, have a problem on ascent for which the remedy would be a launch on need shuttle, a rescue shuttle. But against the very small probability that it could occur, we will carry that rescue option in the manifest. ... The safety of our crew conducting this mission will be as much as we can possibly do," explained former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin.

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