Shuttle touches down after Hubble makeover
(CNN) -- The crew of the space shuttle Columbia landed early Tuesday, having completed the most arduous series of spacewalks ever in an effort to improve the vision of the premier orbiting observatory.
Columbia astronauts spent almost 36 hours floating in space to work on the Hubble Space Telescope, surpassing the old record for a single mission that was set nine years ago by the first Hubble repair team.
The seven astronauts touched down at 4:32 a.m. ET (0932 GMT) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, following 11 days in space.
With a $172-million makeover complete, Hubble possesses a new camera that will boost its imaging capacity tenfold, according to NASA scientists.
It will require more than nine weeks to align fully the Advanced Camera for Surveys, which will study weather patterns on planets in our solar system, search for extra-solar worlds and explore the fringes of the universe.
The telephone booth-sized instrument was installed during one of five spacewalks. On the other outside jaunts, shuttle astronauts performed a variety of technically daunting repairs and upgrades.
The floating repairmen installed a new cryogenic cooler and radiator, both designed to chill an infrared camera that needs extremely cold temperatures to function (-334 degrees Fahrenheit, -203 degrees Celsius).
The camera, called the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object spectrometer, or NICMOS, has been dormant since 1999 because of a small leak in the original cooling mechanism.
Technicians say it will take roughly a month for the new cooling system to get NICMOS down to its optimum working temperature.
Astronauts John Grunsfeld and Richard Linnehan successfully performed the mission's most warily anticipated feat, changing out the 12-year-old telescope's power control unit.
The job required powering down and restarting Hubble for the first time since it was deployed from the space shuttle Discovery in 1990.
Shuttle spacewalkers also installed more powerful solar panels and replaced an ailing reaction wheel assembly, which is used to help orient the telescope.
Hubble is scheduled for one more servicing mission in 2004. The telescope is expected to keep working until 2010 when the bus-sized spacecraft will be retrieved, returned to Earth and put on display at the Smithsonian.
The flight was the first for Columbia since it underwent a 1.5-year, $70 million overhaul. The oldest shuttle in the fleet performed well after the long hiatus, save for a glitch in its coolant system on the first day in orbit.
Aboard Columbia: Richard Linnehan
March 7, 2002
Aboard Columbia: Nancy Currie
March 6, 2002
Hubble telescope gets 'heart transplant'
March 6, 2002
Aboard Columbia: Duane Carey
March 5, 2002
Astronauts finish second Hubble walk
March 5, 2002
Aboard Columbia: Scott Altman
March 4, 2002
Shuttle grabs Hubble telescope for repairs
March 3, 2002
NASA green-lights Hubble mission
March 2, 2002
Shuttle mission to continue another day
March 1, 2002
Revived Hubble to gain new outlook on cosmos
February 22, 2002
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
SPACE TOP STORIES:
NASA starts countdown to Mars mission
Shuttle probe could take six months
Shuttle widows grasp faith, each other
EPA approves new modified corn
Mexico saves island from tourism build-up
|Back to the top|