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I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Cautious anticipation by NASA

STS-125 -- The next NASA shuttle mission is scheduled for 11 days in space beginning October 8, 2008. This mission to service the Hubble telescope is on track to be able to meet its scheduled launch date. To quote NASA:
An ambitious week is wrapping up at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Preparations for the STS-125 mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope remain on target.

Inside Kennedy's Orbiter Processing Facility, Atlantis' payload bay doors were closed Thursday night, a few days earlier than scheduled. Finishing touches on the spacecraft's orbital maneuvering system will continue this weekend. . .

At NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston Atlantis' crew members ended their week reviewing the operation of the IMAX high-definition camera that will capture the repairs on Hubble from Atlantis' cargo bay. They also practiced entry simulations.

During the STS-125 mission, NASA astronauts will install new instruments on the telescope, including the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and the Wide Field Camera 3. A refurbished Fine Guidance Sensor will replace one unit of three now on board.

Crew members will also install new gyroscopes, batteries and thermal blankets on the telescope enhancing the abilities of Hubble for several more years of service.
This final visit to Hubble by the crew of the shuttle Atlantis, STS-125, is unusual for NASA for several reasons.
  • It is the last visit to the Hubble Space Telescope before the shuttle fleet retires in 2010.
  • This crew – Commander Scott Altman, Pilot Gregory C. Johnson and Mission Specialists Andrew Feustel, Michael Good, John Grunsfeld, Mike Massimino and Megan McArthur – will be the fifth to fly to the telescope.
  • In contrast to assembling the "erector-set" elements of the International Space Station, this mission will be characterized by tasks that are very delicate and complicated. Five space walks will be needed to complete the repair and refurbishment that will allow Hubble another five work years in orbit.
  • The mission must be conducted out of the shuttle alone, much more confining and difficult than it would be out of the ISS.
  • The shuttle crew will be responsible for doing all the inspections necessary to assure the integrity of the vehicle for reentry into the earth's atmosphere.
  • In case of trouble, the shuttle Endeavour and the flight deck crew of STS-123 will be on the launch pad in Florida, ready to rescue a stranded crew in a few days.
International Space Station news -- Meanwhile the Expedition 17 crew, Russians Commander Sergei Volkov and Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko, have recently completed two space walks outside the Russian segments of the ISS, beginning with installing exterior experiments. To quote:
In this spacewalk, their second in less than a week, they also continued to outfit the station's exterior, including the installation of a docking target on the Zvezda service module. It will help with the docking of a Russian mini research module on the space-facing side of Zvezda. That module will be launched next year. . .

As he did last week, Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff remained in the Soyuz during the spacewalk. That was part of contingency preparations for the unlikely event the Pirs airlock could not be repressurized.

The July 10 spacewalk by Volkov and Kononenko focused on inspection of their Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft and retrieval of an explosive bolt, one of 10 that help separate the spacecraft's return module from its propulsion module. The bolt will be returned to Earth for examination.

Failure of those two modules to separate on time during re-entry on the most recent two Soyuz returns resulted in ballistic entries. Those steeper-than-normal entries, while safe, resulted in high-G rides for Soyuz occupants and landings several hundred miles short of the planned area.
For dessert after this blog post's "meal in space," I recommend some delicious "eye candy." Explore the new website, NASA, a service of the Internet Archive. The image above is from this site.

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View my current slide show about the Bush years -- "Millennium" -- at the bottom of this column.
(Cross-posted at Making Good Mondays).

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