Astronauts release Hubble telescope back into orbit

May 19th, 2009 - 9:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Hubble Space Telescope Washington, May 19 (DPA) The US space agency NASA said astronauts Tuesday sent the Hubble Space Telescope back into orbit, where it is to help probe the origins and nature of the universe for at least five more years.
Astronauts spent the past seven days repairing the telescope, completing their tasks Monday on a space walk lasting over seven hours, as a stand-by shuttle stood ready on the launch pad in Florida for a rescue mission.

The US space agency NASA had originally decided against the risky maintenance mission, but US politicians and world astronomers fought successfully to keep alive the instrument that has significantly expanded knowledge of space history.

The crew on the space shuttle Atlantis was set to head back to Earth Friday to land at Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

Scientists say the repairs and upgrades, which US space agency NASA hopes will extend Hubble’s life span until at least 2014, will continue to provide clues about the origin and nature of the universe.

Since its launch in 1990, Hubble has helped scientists to place the age of the universe at 13.7 billion years, learn that black holes are at the centre of most galaxies, monitor planetary formation and discover that the universe is expanding at an ever-faster pace.

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