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Fixing Hubble

December 5, 2013

ENDEAVOUR: Endeavour has a firm handshake with Mister Hubble’s telescope. CAPCOM: We copy that, Covey, and there are smiles galore down here. ENDEAVOUR: It’s quite a sight.

Twenty years ago today, astronauts were hard at work on NASA’s most ambitious mission since the Moon landings — and perhaps the most critical to the agency’s future. They were giving Hubble Space Telescope corrective lenses — a project designed to turn it from a national joke to a national treasure.

Hubble had been launched in 1990. As it began looking at the stars, though, scientists realized that its vision was blurred. There was a tiny error in the shape of its main mirror.

Engineers quickly came up with a plan to bring its vision up to spec: Astronauts would install new optics that would bring Hubble’s view into sharp focus.

Space shuttle Endeavour grabbed the telescope on December 4th, 1993. Over the next few days, its crew, led by Richard Covey, installed the corrective optics and a new camera, as well as better computers, solar panels, and other equipment. They released the telescope on December 10th.

ENDEAVOUR: All right. CAPCOM: Endeavour, you’ve got a go for release. PAO: The Hubble Space Telescope has been released from the robot arm. CAPCOM: Through your superb efforts, you’ve really shown that NASA can do all that we promised to do and more. And we very much appreciate it.

The mission saved Hubble — and NASA’s reputation. And four other servicing missions extended the orbiting observatory’s lifetime and capabilities — allowing it to continue its mission of discovery even today. ENDEAVOUR: All right...


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013

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