Weather looks great for Monday launch to Hubble

May 11, 2009 By MARCIA DUNN , AP Aerospace Writer
The sun sets on the space shuttle Atlantis Sunday May 10, 2009 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. With a forecast of near-perfect weather, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope scientists and managers were euphoric as they awaited Monday's planned launch of shuttle Atlantis on the final trip to the orbiting observatory. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

(AP) -- With a forecast of near-perfect weather, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope scientists and managers were euphoric as they awaited Monday's planned launch of shuttle Atlantis on the final trip to the orbiting observatory.

The anticipation was all the greater given all the years of mission delays.

"To be within one day of it is remarkable, unbelievable and I have to persuade myself I'm not dreaming," senior project scientist David Leckrone said Sunday.

"But I walk outside and I see that beautiful bird on the pad (Atlantis) and I see the gorgeous weather, and we're going to get off tomorrow and it's going to go splendidly. I just feel it."

Earlier Sunday, meteorologists issued an improved forecast, putting the odds of good launching at 90 percent, about as good as it gets. Only a slight chance of rain is expected at the emergency landing site in Spain.

Atlantis is poised to blast off with seven astronauts just after 2 p.m.

The 19-year-old Hubble needs new batteries, , cameras and other equipment that NASA hopes will keep the telescope operating - at a higher than ever scientific level - for another five to 10 years.

Hubble has been left unattended for seven years. It's the longest gap ever between servicing missions, created in large part by the 2003 Columbia disaster. A telescope breakdown last fall led to the most recent seven-month delay.

"We have seven years of accumulated maintenance work to do," Hubble program manager Preston Burch said. "So you can imagine if you had a car and you were driving it every day for seven years and never took it into the shop. You would have quite a list of things to do on it."

The 11-day mission is packed and includes unprecedented camera repairs. In all, five spacewalks are planned.

Because this is the final visit to Hubble, "we're going for broke," Leckrone told reporters.

This last repair mission was considered so dangerous in the wake of the Columbia accident that it was canceled in 2004. NASA reinstated it two years later after coming up with shuttle repair techniques and an immediate rescue plan involving a second shuttle, the Endeavour.

Endeavour is at the other launch pad, just a week from rushing to the Atlantis crew's rescue, if necessary. All of NASA's other shuttle missions in recent years have been to the international space station, where astronauts could await a rescue. The Atlantis astronauts will be unable to get to the station, which is in a different orbit than Hubble. That's why Endeavour needs to be ready to blast off as soon as possible if Atlantis suffers severe damage during launch or by a micrometeoroid in orbit.

---

On the Net:

: http://www.nasa.gov/mission-pages/shuttle/main/index.html

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Computer model shows moon's core surrounded by liquid and it's caused by Earth's gravity

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA begins launch countdown for Hubble mission

May 08, 2009

(AP) -- NASA began the countdown for its final trip to the Hubble Space Telescope on Friday as the astronauts who will attempt the daunting repairs arrived at the launching site.

Shuttle Atlantis Rolls to Launch Pad for Hubble Mission

Sep 04, 2008

At 9:19 a.m. EDT this morning, space shuttle Atlantis began its slow trek from Kennedy Space Center's massive Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39A, a journey that should take approximately six hours. ...

Rescue shuttle moved to launch pad just in case

Apr 17, 2009

(AP) -- Space shuttle Endeavour is on a launch pad, ready to rocket off on a rescue mission if shuttle Atlantis needs help when it flies to repair the Hubble Space Telescope next month.

Recommended for you

Titan offers clues to atmospheres of hazy planets

4 hours ago

When hazy planets pass across the face of their star, a curious thing happens. Astronomers are not able to see any changes in the range of light coming from the star and planet system.

Having fun with the equation of time

4 hours ago

If you're like us, you might've looked at a globe of the Earth in elementary school long before the days of Google Earth and wondered just what that strange looking figure eight thing on its side was.

The source of the sky's X-ray glow

23 hours ago

In findings that help astrophysicists understand our corner of the galaxy, an international research team has shown that the soft X-ray glow blanketing the sky comes from both inside and outside the solar system.

User comments : 0