The Sciences

Saving Hubble


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Photo Credits: photography by Michael Soluri

The fate of the Hubble Space Telescope is in the hands of these seven astronauts. NASA is betting $1 billion that they have what it takes to carry out one of the toughest and most ambitious space missions ever attempted.

From left: Michael Good, spacewalker; Michael Massimino, spacewalker; K. Megan McArthur, robot arm operator; Scott Altman, commander of the mission; Gregory Johnson, pilot; Andrew Feustel, spacewalker; John Grunsfeld, spacewalker.

The new Wide Field Camera 3 will allow Hubble to view the sky across a broad spectrum, from ultraviolet through visible light and into the near-infrared. It is markedly more sensitive and versatile than Hubble's previous wide-field camera.

At NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL) in Houston, a 202-foot pool holds

6.2 million gallons of water, along with full-scale mock-ups of Hubble and the International Space Station.

After hours of underwater training, astronauts are usually only too happy to get out of their suits and diapers.

Straps used to lift astronauts and equipment in and out of the pool during training exercises at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab.

Divers shadow submerged astronauts as they practice their mission tasks. Fron left: lead NBL diver Ryan Wannemacher, Ted Petruna, and Joe Lopez.

Spacewalker Andrew Feustel is hoisted into the air before being immersed for a seven-hour training session at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab. While underwater, Feustel experiences a close simulation of the zero-g conditions in orbit.

Multilayered thermal blankets are custom-made and fitted to each piece of space-going equipment by a team of workers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The gold color comes from a thin layer of metal-coated Kapton (a commercial insulating film) designed to reflect solar radiation and protect the components from extremes of heat and cold.

The capture platform, wrapped in Kapton thermal blankets, will hold the 12-ton, 43-foot-long Hubble Space Telescope snugly in space shuttle Atlantis's cargo bay so the astronauts can work safely on Hubble during the repair mission.

A life-size mock-up of part of the Hubble sits in the clean room at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Here, astronauts can practice with the tools and equipment they will use in orbit.

Mark Jarosz is the EVA Crew Training Office lead manager for Hubble repair mission at at Goddard.

Specialized tools address the challenges of working in space. This device, called a screw capture plate, is designed for the Hubble servicing mission and will be used in the repair of a spectrograph. It stops fasteners from floating around and wreaking havoc.

It's not a ray gun. Called a pistol grip tool, this is NASA's version of the cordless electric screwdriver. It is computer controlled so it cannot overtighten a screw or strip a thread.

Even simple tools need to be modified to work in space. Here, a ratchet has been fitted with a handle and a palm wheel so astronauts can use it while wearing stiff and bulky space-suit gloves.

Technicians Fernanda Zabala, Jason Krom, and Laura McKelvet (from left) help prepare the Wide Field Camera 3 and other equipment in the clean room at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Air jets and shoe vacuums remove dirt before the technicians enter the room; the white suits reduce the chance of contaminating delicate hardware with stray hairs or lint from clothing.

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