In the News this month... and finally
Astronauts Michael Good (left) and Mike Massimino, both STS-125 mission specialists, participate in the missions fourth session of extravehicular activity (EVA) as work continues to refurbish and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. During the eight-hour, two-minute spacewalk, Massimino and Good continued repairs and improvements to the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) that will extend the Hubbles life into the next decade. CREDIT: NASA
May was a busy month in space with the successful launch of two space telescopes and a servicing mission to Hubble. On the 11th of May, the space shuttle Atlantis took off on the fifth and final flight to service the Hubble Space Telescope. During the 13-day flight, the crew carried out five spacewalks totalling 36 hours and 56 minutes, successfully installed the Wide Field Camera 3 and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, and repaired both the Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph. The astronauts also replaced all six of Hubble's batteries launched with the telescope in 1990 and now losing capacity as they age. Other tasks included replacing the fine guidance sensors and all six rate sensor units - the gyroscopes essential to keep the telescope pointing in the right direction. The upgrades will hopefully allow the telescope to keep functioning until 2014 when the James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled to launch.
Herschel and Planck launch on board an Ariane 5 CREDIT: ESA
May 14th saw the successful launch of the Herschel and Planck satellites, lifting off together on board an Ariane 5 rocket from the European Space Agency's launch site in French Guiana. Planck is a telescope designed to map the tiny fluctuations in the Cosmic Microwave Background in unprecedented detail, while Herschel is an infrared telescope which will study some of the coldest objects in the Universe. Once in space, the two satellites separated from each other in order to travel independently out to a point known as L2 - a gravitationally stable orbit one and a half million kilometres on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun. Both satellites are undergoing in-flight tests and are so far functioning perfectly.