Friday, June 08, 2007

Hubble, here we come!

Tonight, if all goes well, the space shuttle Atlantis will launch on a visit to the International Space Station. Since the last shuttle launch, NASA's suffered through a series of bizarre events, including a tabloid-worthy love triangle, a hail storm resulting in an ugly-looking fuel tank, and a train carrying booster parts that derailed twice on its way across the country. With a successful and safe mission, hopefully NASA can put these odd events behind it.

In even better news (in my humble opinion), NASA also announced a launch date of September 10, 2008, for the next and final Hubble Telescope repair mission. Servicing Mission 4 (which is actually the fifth repair mission -- typical government counting, since Servicing Mission 3 was actually two visits) will install two new cameras, repair one existing camera (hopefully), replace the rechargeable batteries, replace broken gyroscopes, add new pointing sensors, and repair some insulation and other minor damage.

Personally, I question the usefulness of the International Space Station. It's horrendously expensive, and hasn't been able to do the promised science because of budget cutbacks. But we've agreed to build it, and we might as well use it (if we can find useful things to do). And, each passing shuttle launch brings us closer to both the Hubble repair and the end of the space shuttle program.

So, if you haven't watched a shuttle launch in a while, why not take some time to watch? Launch is scheduled for 7:38pm EDT. If you don't have access to cable TV, you can always watch NASA TV online. The launch has to happen in a 10 minute time frame for the shuttle to be able to meet the space station; otherwise, they'll have to try again another day.

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