If you were planning to attend the Hubble space telescope’s fiery funeral in 2010, you might want to put away that sexy black dress. NASA announced today that they’re launching a crew of seven astronauts by May of 2008 to replace Hubble’s old gyros and worn-out batteries, then boost it out of a dangerously low orbit. But they’re not just fixing humanity’s best eye to the cosmos—going up with the crew will be some brand-new toys for astronomers to play with.
When astronauts dock for the fifth time with Hubble, they’ll upgrade the telescope’s imaging power with the Wide Field Camera 3. NASA is working improved digital camera technology into the device for larger, clearer images that astronomers can study and you can use as computer desktop backgrounds (joy).
Another Hubble addition will be the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, a device that can see ultraviolet light invisible to the human eye. Aside from taking the most detailed snapshots of quasars and intergalactic dust, it will help astronomers find young, hot stars (and definitely not the Hollywood type). The repairs and upgrades should keep Hubble trucking well into 2013, until it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere and is replaced by the James Webb space telescope.