The crew of Atlantis bid farewell to the Hubble Space Telescope
on behalf of NASA and the rest of the world Tuesday. The telescope
was released back into space at 8:57 a.m. EDT. With its upgrades,
the telescope should be able to see farther into the universe than
Astronaut Megan McArthur used the shuttle’s robotic arm to
grab Hubble, lift it out of Atlantis’ payload bay and release
it. Ground teams opened Hubble’s aperture door, which is the
large shutter that protects the telescope’s primary and
Atlantis performed a final separation maneuver from the
telescope at 9:28 a.m., which took the shuttle out of the vicinity
of Hubble. The berthing mechanism to which Hubble has been attached
during the mission was stored back down into the payload bay.
The rest of the day was focused on the scheduled inspection of
Atlantis’ heat shield, searching for any potential damage
from orbital debris. The crew used the shuttle robotic arm to
operate the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS) for the inspection.
The crew worked ahead of schedule and returned the OBSS to the
payload bay sill Tuesday instead of Wednesday.
The crew’s sleep period is being modified to allow them to
go to sleep 30 minutes early to help adjust for an earlier workday
for the rest of the mission. The adjusted schedule allows the entry
flight control team to consider an earlier landing opportunity at
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Friday, before the sea breeze
adversely affects landing weather conditions later in the day.