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Challenges Ahead In Final Hubble Servicing Mission 130

Hugh Pickens writes "Space shuttle Atlantis is slated to lift off Monday on the fifth and final servicing mission to Hubble with four mission specialists alternating in two-astronaut teams will attempt a total of five spacewalks from Atlantis to replace broken components, add new science instruments, and swap out the telescope's six 125-pound (57-kilogram) batteries, original parts that have powered Hubble's night-side operations for nearly two decades. 'This is our final opportunity to service and upgrade Hubble,' says David Leckrone, senior project scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope. 'So we're replacing some items that are getting long in the tooth to give Hubble longevity, and then we'll try to take advantage of that five- to 10-year extra lifetime with the most powerful instrumental tools we've ever had on board.' Some of the upgrades are relatively straightforward and modular: yank out old part, put in new. But they're big parts: The 'fine guidance sensors' sound delicate but weigh as much as a grand piano back on Earth. But what's different this time is that the astronauts will also open up some instruments and root around inside, doing Geek Squad-like repairs while wearing bulky spacesuits and traveling around the planet at 17,000 mph. 'We have this choreographed almost down to the minute of what we want the crew to do. It's this really fine ballet,' said Keith Walyus, the servicing mission operations manager at Goddard. 'We've been training for this for seven years. We can't wait for this to happen.'"

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