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Wed, May 20, 2009

Left Behind: A MUCH Improved Hubble

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 ever before.

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 secondary mirrors.

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.

FMI: www.nasa.gov

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