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1993: Astronauts put Hubble back in action
A mission to repair the faulty Hubble telescope in outer space has been declared an unqualified success after astronauts completed the latest of a record five space walks earlier today.

Story Musgrave and Jeff Hofman made the longest space walk of the 11-day mission, spending seven hours and 21 minutes on their final task to unravel the 40 ft (12 metre) solar panels which power Hubble.

The mission is the result of a tiny mistake in the manufacture of the $1.55 billion telescope, which made the mirror flatter than it should be by just one-fiftieth of the width of a human hair.

The telescope, designed to see further into deep space than ever before, was only able to send back out-of-focus images no better than could be seen from Earth.

Defects

The main task for the seven-strong crew of astronauts was to repair the mirror by adding a lens similar to a contact lens which would correct the focus.

Ten other defective parts were also replaced or repaired.

The astronauts were wearing full space suits, and carried out repairs travelling at 17,000 miles per hour (27,358 km/h) at 360 miles (580 km) above the Earth.

The work was compared to fixing a car while hanging upside down and wearing ski gloves.

Some of the repairs were scheduled servicing operations; others, like the solar panels and the mirror correction, were the result of the disastrous faults which overshadowed the launch of Hubble in April 1990.

The telescope will be released from the space shuttle Endeavour early tomorrow morning to continue its orbit around the Earth.

However, scientists expect it to be February before they can assess whether the telescope is now able to see clearly for the first time using its new "spectacles".

Nasa boost

The success of the mission is a massive boost for Nasa, which had been struggling to overcome a series of disasters including the Challenger explosion in 1986 and the loss of the $980 million Mars Observer spacecraft.

The agency is also reeling from the news that this week an undercover FBI sting found deep-rooted corruption and fraud within the space agency. The first criminal charges are expected early next year.

It is expected that the Hubble repairs will boost Nasa's argument for at least $10 billion from Congress to build a permanent space station in orbit.

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Astronaut carrying out repairs
Astronauts carried out a record-breaking series of five space walks



In Context
The in-space repairs on Hubble became one of the landmarks of manned space flight.

The Hubble space telescope was successfully released back into orbit the following day, and in February, Hubble sent back its first pictures.

Crystal clear and spectacular, they were a sure sign that the repairs in deep space had been totally successful.

Since the repair, Hubble has sent back a series of stunning photographs of deep space, and revolutionised thinking about the universe.

Among its most memorable images were startling pictures of Jupiter following the impact of Comet Shoemaker Levy 9 in 1994.

Between 2003 and 2004, instruments on Hubble were directed to a single spot in the sky to obtain the deepest-ever view of the universe.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field, as it was called, showed the first stars beginning to shine, shortly after the moment when the universe was created 13.7 billion years ago.

Nasa got its wish for an orbiting space station. The first crew arrived at the International Space Station, a joint venture between the US, Russia and 14 other nations, in 2000.

Stories From 9 Dec


 
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