The astronauts who went to repair the Hubble Space Telescope for the last time have returned to the shuttle.
Thanks to the 7-person crew who made the risky trip to make difficult repairs to the telescope that has given us so much insight into our universe. Dr. Grunsfeld, one of the astronauts on the mission said “Hubble is not just a satellite, it’s a symbol of humanity’s quest for knowledge.”
Courtesy NY Times:
“Hubble is arguably the most important scientific instrument ever created,” Dr. Grunsfeld said. “And, you know, those are pretty strong words, and I think they’re probably true.”
But astronauts will not be back to the telescope, and Dr. Grunsfeld has said this was his last spaceflight.
Most of his last day as a spacewalker was about as free from drama as anything can be while floating 350 miles above Earth. Dr. Grunsfeld and Dr. Feustel got an early start and sped through their first tasks, finishing the replacement of the telescope’s batteries and installing a refurbished star tracker an hour early.
Their reward was to replace several of the telescope’s old insulating blankets, which were falling apart, with sturdier cookie-sheets. So Dr. Grunsfeld spent some of the last moments of his Hubble career up on the end of the robot arm peeling old disintegrating insulation off the side of the telescope.
When he was done, he spent some time taking pictures. “This is a beautiful spaceship,” he said at one point.
Dr. Feustel, a geophysicist, threw his head back once at the end of the day to marvel at the Pacific Ocean.
But as it turned out, they were not quite done.
In the sort of low comedic twist that you would not dare make up, Dr. Grunsfeld brushed an antenna on the telescope with his foot while he was chasing a piece of debris and knocked a cap off the end. Upon verifying that it was the end of the antenna, he said, “I’m sick.”
The telescope controllers on the ground quickly determined that the antenna was still working fine. Dan Burbank in mission control told the disconsolate-sounding Dr. Grunsfeld: “Just to let you know, we’re feeling real good about this. We think that antenna’s going to be just fine.”
But after his goodbye speech, Dr. Grunsfeld was directed back out to the telescope to put a cover on it to provide some insulation.
It gave him one last moment to hug the Hubble.
“Sorry, Mr. Hubble,” Dr. Grunsfeld said. “Have a good voyage.”
I wish I could hug Hubble!