Astronauts Bid Final Farewell to Hubble

Astronauts release space telescope back into orbit.

ByABC News
May 19, 2009, 8:40 AM

May 19, 2009 — -- Astronauts onboard the shuttle Atlantis said their last goodbyes to the Hubble Space Telescope this morning.

After five grueling spacewalks and extensive repairs, NASA astronauts released the telescope back into orbit. The 19-year-old Hubble Space Telescope will never again undergo a servicing mission in space.

"Not everything went as we planned but we found a way to work around it," Cmd. Scott Altman said after the shuttle released Hubble. "We did it together and now Hubble can continue on its own exploration of the cosmos and bring it home to us as we head for home in a few days."

Thanks to the astronauts' repairs, the telescope should be able to photograph the cosmos for another five or more years. NASA expects to launch the more advanced James Webb Space Telescope in 2014. When Hubble retires, this new telescope will pick up from where it left off.

"Congratulations on a great series of spacewalks," Dan Burbank, the spacecraft communicator, told the Atlantis crew.

After additional tests and preparations this week, the astronauts are scheduled to return on Friday.

It will be three months before scientists know how well all the new instruments work. The Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland will unveil the new discoveries after Hubble's renovation Sept 7. In total, this Hubble mission cost more than $1 billion.

"We fought against tremendous odds to fly this mission, and we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams," chief Hubble scientist Dave Leckrone said after the spacewalk ended.

Astronauts John Grunsfeld and Drew Feustal started work an hour early Monday. During the spacewalk, the duo installed a new set of batteries, a Fine Guidance Sensor that helps aim the telescope and protective steel-foil sheets on the telescope's exterior.