May 11, 2009

Godspeed Atlantis

Atlantis launched this afternoon on one of the last of NASA's shuttle missions. This is also the final repair and preventive maintenance mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.




Gahlran puts the task facing the astronauts in some perspective.

STS-125 is considered one of the toughest space missions in decades, repairing equipment that was never intended to be repaired in space. For context, imagine replacing a hard drive in your computer, while in a zero gravity environment, while wearing a space suit, while traveling at 17,500 mph, and oh btw you have to replace nearly 100 hard drives. Don't lose those little bitty screws either, because you have to use them to put the thing together when your done.


Difficulties beyond trying to repair items never intended to be fixed in space include the danger of debris from both the Chinese ASAT test and the possibly related breakups of two old Kosmos satellites.How dangerous? NASA estimates the odds of LOCV (that's loss of crew and vehicle!) on this mission at 1 in 185.
The Hubble Space Telescope is one of  the few things considered worth this risk. With its replacement not scheduled to be launched untill 2013...assuming no pragram slippage...the Hubble is one of the most important scientific space assets in existance.
The mission is considered sufficiently hazardous that Shuttle Endeavor is standing by in the event a rescue mission is necessary (and possible).


The STS 125 Crew:7 very gutsy volunteers

NASA's overview of the mission (STS-125) is here.
NASA TV is streaming mission control live here.
One of the astronauts is 'Tweeting' and can be found here. (lolwhut?)


Apropos of nothing, this is the 100th shuttle mission after Challengers last flight.

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