Astronauts say goodbye to Hubble for good
Tuesday, May 19th 2009, 11:38 am
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- The shuttle Atlantis crew has dropped the Hubble Space Telescope back into orbit, all fixed up.
Shuttle commander Scott Altman reports the space scope is "safely back on its journey of exploration" as the Atlantis crew starts winding down its own mission.
NASA pronounces the 19-year-old Hubble better than new. Officials predict it could last another five to 10 years.
Atlantis crew members will now inspect their ship before making the return trip to Earth. They need to make sure it wasn't pelted by space junk. The Hubble's unusually high orbit has been putting the Atlantis and its spacewalking crew at greater risk of collisions with flying debris.
The shuttle crew's trip will be the last such visit for the Hubble. Sometime after 2020, NASA will send a robotic craft to steer it into a watery grave. The Atlantis spacewalkers installed a docking ring for just that purpose.