Spacewalk No. 1 ends
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: May 14, 2009;
Updated with comments from mission managers
John Grunsfeld and Andrew Feustel successfully installed a powerful new $132 million camera and a critical science data computer on the Hubble Space Telescope Thursday during a roller coaster of a spacewalk that brought to mind the "Perils of Pauline" history of the fabled observatory.
"Well, we got to Hubble and gave Hubble a hug," Grunsfeld said from the airlock when the work was done. "But in traditional Hubble fashion, Hubble threw us a few curves. But I think it's really a testament to the whole team on board here and of course, on the ground ... that we were able to overcome them and that we have a Wide Field Camera 3 in the telescope, which will help unlock the secrets of the universe, and a new scientific instrument command and data handling (computer)."
The spacewalk began at 8:52 a.m. and ended with airlock re-pressurization at 4:12 p.m. for a duration of seven hours and 20 minutes. It was the 19th EVA devoted to servicing the Hubble Space Telescope, the first of five planned by the Atlantis astronauts, the sixth for Grunsfeld and the first for Feustel. Total Hubble EVA servicing time now stands at 136 hours and 30 minutes. Grunsfeld's total EVA time through six spacewalks stands at 44 hours and 52 minutes, putting him eighth on the list of most experienced spacewalkers.
The first item on the agenda today was installation of the new Wide Field Camera 3 in place of the aging Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, which was installed during the first Hubble servicing mission in 1993. Attempting to remove the old camera, Feustel initially was unable to loosen a critical bolt holding the instrument in place.
Grunsfeld then returned to the shuttle's airlock and retrieved a torque limiter, allowing Feustel to safely apply more force. The bolt would not budge. Flight controllers then approved a last-ditch contingency plan, telling Feustel to remove the torque limiter and apply more elbow grease to the socket.
"That A latch was at a higher torque than we could release initially," said lead spacewalk officer Tomas Gonzales-Torres. "So we used a multi-torque limiter that has different settings we can use. ... The one they nominally use is maxed out at 38 foot pounds. We have a contingency one that can be set at 45 foot pounds. So that's what the crew did, they went and retrieved the contingency MTL and unfortunately, that still was not high enough."
It was a make-or-break moment of high drama. But when Feustel applied the socket directly to the bolt and leaned into it, the bolt finally released.
"The failure torque of the bolt was 57.1 foot pounds," said Gonzales-Torres. "Without a torque limiter in place to limit the torque, the crew could impart, there was a possibility that you shear the bolt. If that happened, the instrument was going to be staying inside. WFPC 2 would stay inside the telescope and we would re-engage the connectors and the ground strap. It would still be a functional instrument, we just would not be able to get it out."
Project scientist David Leckrone said engineers were thrilled when the bolt finally broke free.
"I don't normally reveal my age and I'm not going to here, but I can tell you I'm five years older now than I was when I came to work this morning," he told reporters later. "Many of us have worked on WFC 3 on the order of 10 years or more, a lot of blood, sweat and tears. And we were concerned we might not end up with our highest priority instrument in."
Taking off the torque limiter was "near the bottom of the list" of contingency procedures, Leckrone said. When the bolt was freed, "there was just a huge outburst of elation and emotion."
From that point on, the camera swap out went smoothly and the Wide Field Camera 3 was successfully installed.
"We can sleep pretty well tonight, knowing that's been accomplished," Leckrone said.
Installation of the replacement science instrument command and data handling system computer also went smoothly. Grunsfeld then attached a grapple fixture to the base of the telescope to enable a future crew, or a robotic spacecraft, to drive Hubble safely into the atmosphere at the end of its life.
The final items on the agenda were installation of door latches intended to make it easier to access critical hardware during the crew's upcoming spacewalks. Two of four "latch over center kits," or LOCKS, were installed, but the astronauts had problems getting two others attached. Instead, one different type of latch and a door restraint were attached to accomplish the same purpose.
"It's been a tremendous day for the HST program," said Hubble Program Manager Preston Burch. "This is a huge accomplishment, our first EVA day in more than seven years, and the crew were able today to accomplish two out of our three highest priority items."
Final Shuttle Mission Patch
Free shipping to U.S. addresses!
The crew emblem for the final space shuttle mission is now available in our store. Get this piece of history!
Free shipping to U.S. addresses!
The final planned flight of space shuttle Endeavour is symbolized in the official embroidered crew patch for STS-134. Available in our store!
Ares 1-X Patch
The official embroidered patch for the Ares 1-X rocket test flight, is available for purchase.
This beautiful one piece set features the Apollo program emblem surrounded by the individual mission logos.
The Orion crew exploration vehicle is NASA's first new human spacecraft developed since the space shuttle a quarter-century earlier. The capsule is one of the key elements of returning astronauts to the Moon.
Fallen Heroes Patch Collection
The official patches from Apollo 1, the shuttle Challenger and Columbia crews are available in the store.
INDEX | PLUS | NEWS ARCHIVE | LAUNCH SCHEDULE
ASTRONOMY NOW | STORE
© 2014 Spaceflight Now Inc.