Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Today in Space: Atlantis Poised to Capture Hubble

It's a big day for seven Atlantis astronauts, none more than mission specialist Megan McArthur (left).

Atlantis is closing in on the Hubble Space Telescope during the 11-day mission's second full day in orbit.

It will be McArthur's job today to grab the school bus-sized telescope and guide it gently into the payload bay with the shuttle's robotic arm, while the two spacecraft orbit roughly 350 miles above Earth at 17,500 mph.

Once Hubble is fastened in the payload bay, four spacewalkers will be able to get to work outfitting the iconic observatory for at least another five years of life. Five consecutive spacewalks are scheduled to start Thursday.

Here are some of Wednesday's highlights (all times Eastern):

5:01 a.m.: Atlantis crew wake-up call.
7:41 a.m.: Hubble rendezvous operations begin.
10:41 a.m.: Terminal initiation burn.
12:01 p.m.: Hubble maneuvers into position for grapple by Atlantis.

12:54 p.m.: Shuttle robotic arm grapples Hubble.
1:41 p.m.: Hubble berthed in payload bay.
2:01 p.m.: Inspection of Hubble begins.
4 p.m.: Mission status/post-Mission Management Team briefing.
4:41 p.m.: Review of procedures for first spacewalk.
8:31 p.m.: Atlantis crew sleeps.

Check out this NASA TV schedule to see what's coming up later in the mission.

On the ground, managers in Houston are likely to decide today whether or not a more detailed inspection is needed of Atlantis' heat shields, after the crew spent most of Tuesday surveying the orbiter's belly, nose and wing leading edges.

Meanwhile, workers at Kennedy Space Center will continue to keep Endeavour in a posture that would allow it to launch as early as next Monday on a rescue mission, though managers consider that outcome extremely unlikely.

You can watch all of today's action live here on The Flame Trench. Just click the NASA TV still image on the right side of the page to launch a viewer.

And refresh this page for updates throughout the day.

Here's an official press kit with more background on STS-125 - the fifth and final trip to service Hubble.

IMAGE NOTE: Above, in 2007, STS-125 mission specialist Megan McArthur participates in a training session at a console in the simulation control area in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at the Sonny Carter Training Facility near Johnson Space Center in Houston. Below, commander Scott Altman is seen in video taken Tuesday by mission specialist Mike Massimino. Altman's hat features Hubble Space Telescope pictures.

No comments: