NASA'S Space Shuttle Returns to Earth After Hubble Mission
Space shuttle Atlantis and its crew landed at 8:39
a.m. PDT Sunday at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., completing the
final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Atlantis'
astronauts conducted five successful spacewalks during their STS-125
flight to enhance and extend the life of the orbiting observatory.
"This mission highlights what the challenges of spaceflight can bring
out in human beings," said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator
for Space Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This
mission required the absolute best from the shuttle team, the Hubble
science and repair teams, and the crew. The results are a tribute to
the entire team and the years of preparation."
Atlantis' nearly 13-day mission of almost 5.3 million miles
rejuvenated Hubble with state-of-the-art science instruments designed
to improve the telescope's discovery capabilities by as much as 70
times, while extending its lifetime through at least 2014.
"This is not the end of the story but the beginning of another chapter
of discovery by Hubble," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for
Science at NASA Headquarters. "Hubble will be more powerful than
ever, continue to surprise, enlighten, and inspire us all and pave
the way for the next generation of observatories."
Scott Altman commanded the shuttle flight and was joined by Pilot
Gregory C. Johnson and Mission Specialists Megan McArthur, John
Grunsfeld, Mike Massimino, Andrew Feustel and Michael Good. McArthur
served as the flight engineer and lead for robotic arm operations,
while the remaining mission specialists paired up for challenging
spacewalks on Hubble.
Weather concerns prevented the crew from returning to NASA's Kennedy
Space Center in Florida, the primary end-of-mission landing site. In
seven to 10 days, Atlantis will be transported approximately 2,500
miles from California to Florida on the back of a modified 747 jumbo
jet. Once at Kennedy, the shuttle will be separated from the aircraft
to begin processing for its next flight, targeted for November 2009.
The STS-125 mission was the 126th shuttle flight, the 30th for
Atlantis and the second of five planned for 2009. Hubble was
delivered to space on April 24, 1990, on the STS-31 mission.
Atlantis' landing at Edwards was the 53rd shuttle landing to occur at
the desert air base.
Hubble has enabled a number of ground-breaking discoveries during its
time in orbit. They include determining the age of the universe to be
13.7 billion years; finding that virtually all major galaxies have
black holes at their center; discovering that the process of
planetary formation is relatively common; detecting the first-ever
organic molecule in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting another star;
and providing evidence the expansion of the universe is accelerating
because of an unknown force that makes up approximately 72 percent of
the matter-energy content in the universe.
With Atlantis and its crew safely home, the focus will shift to the
launch of STS-127, targeted for June 13. Endeavour's 16-day flight
will deliver a new station crew member and complete construction of
the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory. Astronauts
will attach a platform to the outside of the Japanese module that
will serve as a type of "back porch" for experiments that require
direct exposure to space.
For information about NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, visit:
> Hubble web site
> STS-125 and the upcoming STS-127