The space shuttle Endeavour blasted off in a blaze of light this morning on the Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission(*). The spectacular pre-dawn lift-off, visible for hundreds of miles, occurred at 04h27 a.m. EST (10h27 a.m. CET). The launch was delayed from yesterday due to high crosswinds but the weather co-operated today and the shuttle lifted off on time into a clear, moon-lit sky.
"I am delighted to see the servicing mission off to such a beautiful start", said Roger Bonnet, ESA's Director of Science, who watched the launch from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. "We are anxious to see the Hubble Space Telescope restored to its full capability so astronomers world- wide can take advantage of this unique observatory".
During the eight and a half minute climb to orbit ESA astronaut Claude Nicollier helped the shuttle commander and pilot monitor the cockpit displays. Nicollier is the first international astronaut to serve as a shuttle's flight engineer. He will perform the same task at the end of the mission for reentry and landing.
The European Space Agency has a major role in the telescope servicing mission. In addition to the presence of its astronaut, the agency is supplying new, improved power generating solar arrays and helped NASA test the Costar system of corrective optics.
Nicollier will be responsible for operation of the shuttle's robot arm during the 11-day mission. He will use the arm to pluck the telescope from orbit and move astronauts and equipment around the payload bay during the mission's five spacewalks.
The astronauts are spending their first hours in space setting up equipment in the orbiter's crew cabin. They will fire the shuttle's manoeuvring jets before going to bed to begin the two-day pursuit of the orbiting telescope. There will be three orbital manoeuvres tomorrow to further close the gap. The shuttle is due to reach the telescope Saturday and repair work will begin Sunday.
Checkouts of the four space suits and the robot arm will occupy the crew tomorrow. Nicollier will use the arm to inspect the equipment in the cargo bay and later practise the manoeuvre he will use on Saturday to capture the telescope.
Hubble Space Telescope science operations will be suspended at midnight tonight EST (06h00 a.m. CET tomorrow) and the HST aperture door closed at 07h30 a.m. EST (01h30 p.m. CET).
(*) The Hubble Space Telescope is the product of international cooperation between NASA and ESA.
Thank you for rating!
You have already rated this page, you can only rate it once!