NASA all set for Atlantis Shuttle launch

May 11th, 2009 - 9:05 pm ICT by GD  

Shuttle Atlantis NASA is on schedule for the launch of Atlantis, which is NASA’s space shuttle that is going on its final mission for the servicing of Hubble telescope.

Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, the test director of NASA said on Sunday that the countdown to the launch was on time. “Atlantis is ready to fly,” said he. The liftoff is expected to be on Monday at 2:01 pm (1801 GMT). The shuttle will be launched from the Kennedy Space Center which is in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Weather forecasters predicted a 90 percent chance of favorable conditions. The shuttle is on a eleven day mission and is aimed to provide the fifth and last maintenance service operation to the Hubble. If the mission is successful, it would add at least five years to the life of the star gazer.

Servicing Hubble entails a number of space walks. Each space walk could be going up to a duration of seven hours. Crew members have a plan of replacing the six gyroscopes of the telescope and its batteries and also upgrade the optical instruments. Hubble was launched in 1990, Hubble and for long has been regarded as one of the greatest tools in the science of astronomy.

Hubble has provided deep insights about the origin and the evolution of the Universe. It uses very powerful instruments for viewing deep space. NASA experts have stressed that heavy risks accompany the Atlantis mission. The mission manager, Preston Burch, said that “This will be the most challenging servicing mission that’s been faced by our astronauts in terms of the total amount of work.” The journey to Hubble involves greater risks of space debris and micrometeorites hitting it than a journey to the International Space Station. It is being hoped that the mission is successful and Hubble is kept working till 2014, when the highly sophisticated telescope James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled to replace it.

Space Shuttle Atlantis
Image above: Night falls on Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida following rollback of the pad’s rotating service structure, or RSS, revealing space shuttle Atlantis. Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

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