The space shuttle, Atlantis, blasted off three days ago in order to do the final repairs on the big eye in the sky...the Hubble Space Telescope. This is the final time that it will be done, because the shuttle fleet of three will be grounded next year. The Hubble, launched in 1990, has outlived expectations by several years...continuing to give up amazing pictures of the universe. It was due for repairs in 2002, but a number of circumstances -- including the destruction of the shuttle Columbia on reentry -- prevented the mission from taking place then. Now, seven years later, there is much work to be done...a daunting task in order to keep the telescope operational for several more years. When its time is up, it will descend into the atmosphere and be incinerated...as ultimately happens to all satellites and other orbiting machines.
It is pretty amazing that the shuttle can pull up next to the telescope and retrieve it with a long, robotic arm. It will take the astronauts several days, beginning today, to complete the repairs. By the time that they are done, the Hubble should be more powerful than ever, in many respects, bringing us even more dazzling images from across space. To say there are risks involved in this spacewalk repair mission would be an understatement...but these astronauts have trained countless hours for just such a time as this. Here is hoping that all goes well and that the Hubble will be able to operate for some time yet to come. Update soon. Blessings,