Thursday, May 14, 2009

Live In Orbit: Astronauts Suit Up For 1st Spacewalk

NASA mission specialists John Grunsfeld and Drew Feustel are in the airlock of shuttle Atlantis, getting ready to head out on the first of five spacewalks to service the Hubble Space Telescope.

The two astronauts are in the midst of donning spacesuits and performing communications checks with crewmates in the orbiter as well as colleagues at NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston.

The spacewalkers aim to exit the airlock at 8:16 a.m. on an excursion to install a new planetary camera, replace a broken Science Instrument Control & Data Handling unit, and equip Hubble with a docking mechanism that will play a key role in its ultimate disposal.

The mechanism will allow a robotic spacecraft to latch onto the observatory so it can be guided on a controlled atmospheric reentry at the end of its useful lifetime.

On the flight deck, mission commander Scott Altman is playing back video from an extensive survey of the observatory that was conducted Wednesday afternoon after the telescope was berthed in the rear of the Atlantis cargo bay. Not all of the video was downlinked Wednesday before the crew went to sleep. Seventeen more minutes of video are being downlinked now.

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