When the Hubble Space Telescope owner's manual says it's
time for routine maintenance, it's not like you can take it to
For one thing, it's as big as a yacht, more than 42 feet long and 25,000 pounds. For another, it's more than 300 miles out in space.
So you have to take the service department to the telescope, not vice versa. Seven astronauts did just that last month, flying shuttle Discovery to Hubble for the second of four planned servicing missions. The astronauts swapped out several instruments to increase the telescope's wavelength range and efficiency, replaced worn components and--in an unplanned fifth spacewalk--repaired damaged insulation they spotted on the telescope's exterior.
Shuttle commander Ken Bowersox and crew visited the Space Telescope Science Institute at Homewood on March 17, to talk with scientists there about their mission and the refurbished telescope's performance in post-flight checkout. Hopkins President William R. Brody attended a briefing by the astronauts and presented them each with the university's President's Medal.
"You have added, perhaps immeasurably, to the power of an instrument that Johns Hopkins astronomers have already used to confirm the existence of black holes, detect oxygen atmospheres around Europa and Ganymede, and quantify the decay of Saturn's rings," Brody told the crew. "Who can imagine what discoveries they and their colleagues around the world will make now, thanks to your work?"
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