A major repair to the Hubble Space Telescope 10 years ago this week remains helping us discover the background of the universe. However, as described in a new video from NASA, the 2009 launching of space shuttle mission STS-125 to the famed observatory nearly never occurred.

Space shuttle Atlantis, the video explains, sent two new tools from orbit Hubble, and tools to fix two more tools on the telescope. The upgrade allowed Hubble to better peer at galaxies and the stars, and to understand how galaxies formed. On top of the prosperous fix, NASA acquired a public relations improve when astronaut Mike Massimino sent the initial tweet from distance .

A view of the Hubble Space Telescope through the window of the shuttle Atlantis, which brought astronauts on a repair mission in 2009.

An opinion of the Hubble Space Telescope through the window at the shuttle Atlantis, which attracted astronauts to a repair mission in 2009.

(Picture: © NASA)

Nevertheless six decades before, this assignment was canceled. NASA assessed all of its assignment plans following the shuttle Columbia broke up during reentry on Feb. 1, 2003, killing all seven astronauts on board. NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe decided it was too risky to proceed — although the agency had planned a final repair mission for Hubble following four astronaut visits. NASA officials were considering sending robots to perform the repairs instead, according to an announcement in the bureau.

Connected: The Best Hubble Space Telescope Images of All Time!

Robots or people?

However, Hubble — which found 1990 — needed help immediately to continue observations. Three of its aging six gyroscopes (which are utilised to point the telescope exactly at distance targets) didn’t work any longer. A spectrograph failed entirely in 2004. At one stage, Hubble managed to do any science for a few month, according to the statement. 

NASA worked diligently on strategies to ship robots to Hubble in an effort led by Frank Cepollina, who at the time was associate director for NASA’s Satellite Servicing Capabilities Project. Amid public protest and scientific concern, however, NASA changed its head on Oct. 31, 2006, when brand new administrator Michael Griffin (after reviewing the scenario closely with senior bureau officials) stated a space shuttle mission could be conducted. NASA took a few additional security precautions to reduce the threat to the STS-125 crew, including using a backup shuttle and crew ready to launch if a problem befell the orbiting astronauts.

Cepollina’s staff continued to operate on repair procedures, now for astronauts. During their job, a second instrument — that the Advanced Camera for Surveys — additionally failed. Beyond missions generally taught astronauts to replace failed equipment, however, technology had advanced a lot as the 1990s. The team decided that resources had progressed far enough in development so that astronauts can do tricky repairs on this pricey device (worth hundreds of millions of dollars), as opposed to replacing it. 

Launch has been established for October 2008 until another Hubble failure awakened those programs. The Science Instrument Control and Data Handling unit of the telescope underwent an anomaly. Because this unit is accountable for formatting scientific data for handling the science instruments, and that Hubble collects, this is a serious problem.

NASA postponed the launch and discovered that the spare unit within a simulator in the Goddard Space Flight Center. Six months Assessing it for flight took\. After engineers understood the unit was still safe to go to distance, STS-125 had a brand new launch date. The astronauts found securely on the shuttle Atlantis on May 11, 2009.

Screw stripping

The repair project wasn’t easy. In a recent quote in the NASA statement, Massimino remembered a moment when he was carrying out handrail screws on top of the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) instrument board. A new power supply was had by STIS, and Massimino had it all ready. While three screws came out with no difficulties, the fourth stripped under his drill. 

“I watched what I’d done and my heart just sank,” Massimino said. “I immediately did the deduction… if that screw doesn’t come off, so the handrail doesn’t come off, then 111 screws don’t come off the board. That means the power source does not come outside; STIS doesn’t come back into life, also a new one doesn’t go back in. We’ll never learn whether or not there’s existence in the world, and everybody’s going to blame me”

NASA floor control along with the orbiting astronauts troubleshooted the tacky screw for 4 months, for example using different drill bits to loosen it. NASA taught while being careful to not allow any of the jagged edges puncture his lawsuit Massimino to rip off the handle when nothing worked. Massimino pulled at the deal, and also to the relief of everyone, it came off with no additional matter.

The historic repair usually means that the telescope is still going strong today, following an unbelievable 29 years in space. (Back in October 2018, Hubble undergone a major gyroscope problem, however it provokes operations; the telescope too had camera glitches 2019.)   Its many accomplishments comprise helping to show that the universe’s growth is accelerating; doing reconnaissance shots for the New Horizons mission prior to the spacecraft’s Jan. 1, 2019, flyby of their distant object MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule; and analyzing areas with dark matter — a mysterious chemical which makes up a lot of the world’s mass, but whose composition isn’t pinned down yet.

“We have complete redundancy in all of the spacecraft’s critical systems,” Larry Dunham, Hubble’s main systems engineer at NASA’s Goddard, stated in the statement. “It is just unbelievable that we are still going now.”

Practice Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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