Learn about the STS103 mission to space. Also learn about the mission to attach the Hubble Space Telescope to the Discovery.
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Learn About the STS103 Hubble Mission Part 1/2 This week, we rejoin Mission STS-103, a special project of America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA. Mission STS-103 saw seven astronauts launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida during the final days of the 20th century. That task to pursuit the Hubble Space Telescope, secure it to their Space Shuttle Discovery and by means of three space walks carry out vital servicing and maintenance of the remarkable telescope. Deployed merely 10 years before this mission, the Hubble Space Telescope or HST as it's often referred to by the astronauts and mission controllers is a giant observatory of outer space craft. It can make observations of the universe using visible neo ultraviolet and neo infrared light spectra above the filtering effect of earth’s atmosphere. Because of its ability to capture faint light and fine detail and the precision of its observations, the Hubble Space Telescope rapidly expanded astronomers understanding of the cosmos. But like most intricate pieces of manmade machinery, the Hubble needs regular attention. The STS-103 mission marked the third visit by a space shuttle crew to the HST. Here on the 6th day of the mission, the Hubble Telescope is scheduled to receive its final upgrades as astronauts Steve Smith a free-floating spaceman and John Grunsfeld on the end of the remote manipulator system or robotic arm perform the last of the three-plan space walks to refurbish the orbiting observatory. That plan seven and a half hour long space walk will see Smith and Grunsfeld install a transmitter that relays Hubble’s scientific data from the telescope to the ground and an upgrade to digital recorder replacing an older mechanical version. The transmitter to be installed replaces one that failed 12 months before. Since that time, the second on board transmitter had successfully carried the load without any disruption to Hubble operations. The transmitters are considered very reliable and unlike most of the equipment to board Hubble were not designed to be changed out in orbit. So, special tools were developed to enable astronauts to do the job more easily. Smith and Grunsfeld also installed a solid state digital recorder replacing an older mechanical reel to real recorder version. The digital solid state recorder provides more than 10 times the storage capacity of the old unit. Also on Smith and Grunsfeld schedule, the application of some new insulation on equipment made doors to minimize any degradation of the telescope’s protective thermal coverings. Both the transmitter and the recorder checked out normally on the early test by telescope controllers. The earliest space walks of this mission, on each of the two previous days had completed the highest priority tasks. Those tasks included installation of six new gyroscopes and six voltage temperature improvement kits giving Hubble a new computer 20 times faster and with six times the memory of the old computer. Another key task that had been completed was the replacement of one of Hubble’s three fine guidance sensors. The second of those walks lasted eight hours and eight minutes, ending at 9:25 PM making it the fourth longest in history. Part of the reason for the length of the space walk was difficulty in hooking Grunsfeld suit up to orbit to power after he had returned to Discovery’s airlock. This walk brought the total time of STS-103 extravehicular activity to 24 hours and 33 minutes. This mission of three space walks bring the total amount of time spent servicing Hubble to 93 hours, 13 minutes. In all space shuttle programs and space walks had now totalled 317 hours and three minutes and this walk also took STS-103 payload commander Steve Smith into the record books as the astronaut with the second longest combined space walk time with 35 hours, 33 minutes behind only Jerry Ross with 44 hours, 11 minutes. After the successful completion of those tasks lead flight director Linda Ham annou
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