Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Live In Orbit: Astronauts Spot Hubble From Afar

The Atlantis astronauts just got a tally-ho on the Hubble Space Telescope, spotting the observatory at 9:16 a.m. at a range of 268,000 feet -- or about 50 miles.

"Houston, Atlantis," mission commander Scott Altman called down to the Mission Control Center In Houston. "We see that starapproach from the east."

Atlantis was flying over Egypt at the time, orbiting Earth for the 28th time since its launch Monday from Kennedy Space Center.

Mission Control noted that it was the first time a shuttle crew had laid eyes on Hubble in orbit since March 2002, when Altman led the STS-109 crew on the fourth mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope.

Atlantis crewmates John Grunsfeld and Mike Massimino took part in that mission, too.

The Atlantis astronauts set sail on a ground-up rendezvous with Hubble at 2:01 p.m. Monday, blasting off from launch pad 39A (left) here at KSC.

The astronauts have been performing a series of rendezvous burns designed to draw Atlantis and the Hubble telescope closer together.

"We hope to get a lot closer," Altman said.

Coming up: the final stages of the rendezvous will begin at 10:41 a.m. with the Terminal Initiation, or TI, burn. The engine-firing will propel Atlantis toward a scheduled 12:54 p.m. grapple of the Hubble.

You can watch all the action live here in The Flame Trench. Simply click the NASA TV box on the righthand side of the page to launch our NASA TV viewer and live coverage. Refresh this page, too, for periodic updates.

All major mission milestones are listed here in Rev B of the NASA TV Schedule.

A more detailed look at the crew's timeline is here in the Flight Day 3 Execute Plan

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