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Saturday, 9 March, 2002, 11:14 GMT
Hubble goes back to work
Astronauts Michael Massimino and James Newman using the robot arm to fit new equipment, AFP/Nasa
Using the robotic arm to complete the mission
Astronauts on board the space shuttle Columbia have released the repaired Hubble Space Telescope (HST) back into orbit after a record-breaking five days of spacewalks.

Fitted with state-of-the-art solar panel wings, a new power unit and a better camera, Hubble is ready to resume its work, revealing the secrets of the Universe.

The telescope is in awesome shape thanks to you

Mission control to crew
The shuttle crane operator, Nancy Currie, let go of Hubble as the two spacecraft hurtled 580 kilometres (360 miles) above the Atlantic on Saturday.

Over the past five days, two teams of spacewalking astronauts spent 35 hours and 55 minutes carrying out painstaking repairs on the HST.

All the new components passed the initial tests, but the American space agency (Nasa) will not know for at least a month whether an experimental cooling system successfully revitalised an infrared camera.

Depths of space

The Near-Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer, known as Nicmos, stopped working in 1999 after it ran out of coolant unexpectedly.

Hubble history
1977 - Project begins
1985 - Hubble built
1990, 24 April - Hubble launched
1990, 18 May - First light
1993, December - Flawed mirror corrected
1997, February - Second servicing mission
1999, December - Emergency service to repair gyroscopes
2002, March - Repairs not done in 1999
2010 - End of Hubble mission
The Nicmos camera was used to study young star clusters, exploding stars and planetary atmospheres.

More than half way through its 20-year mission, Hubble has already taken amazing pictures of deep space and given astronomers their best estimate yet for the age of the Universe.

Other equipment fitted this week included the very powerful Advanced Camera for Surveys.

This replaces the Faint Object Camera - the last of Hubble's original instruments - and will substantially improve the ability of the observatory to pick out objects at great distances.

The changes should enable Hubble to see out its mission, which is due to end in 2010.

The Columbia crew of seven is expected to land back on Earth on 12 March.

The BBC's David Lawrence
"The succesful operation was a huge relief for Nasa scientists"

Hubble SlideShow
See also:

06 Mar 02 | Sci/Tech
Hubble 'heart transplant' success
28 Feb 02 | Sci/Tech
High hopes for new Hubble camera
14 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Ten years of Hubble science
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