Hubble: Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat? Service Mission 4 scheduled for May 2008!

Hubble in SpaceHubble fans have much to celebrate today. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin today announced his decision to schedule one last servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. This will be fifth and final shuttle flight to the HST, which will upgrade the Widefield Planetary Camera, removing WFC2 and installing the more powerful WFC3. It will also install the Cosmic Origins Spectrometer, which will measure and characterize the matter along intergalactic filaments, as well as on the borders of the immense voids in the Universe. New thermal blankets, batteries, and gyroscopes will be installed, and astronauts will attempt to restore power to the Space Telescope Imaging Spectroscope, which failed in 2004 after 7 years on orbit.

Since a shuttle flight to Hubble’s orbit does not leave enough fuel, supplies, and perhaps time available to switch to the International Space Station’s orbit for safe haven, mission planners will have a second shuttle sitting on hot standby on the second shuttle launch pad, should a rescue mission be required.

This final Hubble upgrade, designated STS-125, should enable this Great Observatory to operate through 2013. It also brings the HST up to its most powerful configuration ever, between 10 and 100 times more powerful (depending on the subsystem) than its original state when it was launched in 1990.

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