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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Preparing to Hug Hubble Again

Astronaut John Grunsfeld already has two Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Shuttle servicing missions on his resume. He is now preparing with his crewmates for one more mission in September 2008, which will provide some much needed upgrades to HST systems and will upgrade Hubble's science capability with two new instruments which will expand the telescope's already legendary capabilities. John Grunsfeld is eager to take on the task, and is not shy about expressing his attachment to Hubble, as reported by Space.com.

“Hubble has truly transcended just being an astronomer’s tool for science,"
Grunsfeld said in a recent interview here at the Space Telescope Science
Institute, command central for the orbiting observatory. “It is an icon for
science and as I travel around the country or around the world, people know
Hubble—people have an idea of what Hubble does, people recognize that it’s
important."
Perhaps his most challenging task will be the complex repair of a failed instrument already onboard Hubble.

For Grunsfeld, the most significant and trickiest task will be to revive the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), which conked out after a power failure in August 2003.

Installed on Hubble in February 1997, the STIS separates incoming light into its constituent colors, giving astronomers a chemical map of a distant object. Since deployed, STIS has been critical in the confirmation of black holes at the centers of galaxies, made the only discovery of an atmosphere around an exoplanet and helped confirm the age of the universe.

Preparing for the mission along with John Grunsfeld and his crewmates is a large team, including my colleagues and I, working to develop and carry out the mission from the ground.

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