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Mission Chronicles Archive

Previous Articles (December):
Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Status Report, December 27,1999, 9:30 p.m. EST
FloridaToday, Sunday, December 27, 1999
FloridaToday, Sunday, December 26, 1999
Christmas, NASA-Style, December 25, 1999, Saturday, December 25, 1999 - Discovery returns Hubble to Duty
FloridaToday, Saturday, December 25, 1999
Christmas Eve with the Hubble Family

FloridaToday, Friday, December 24, 1999 - Update for 7:35 p.m. EST
FloridaToday, Friday, December 24, 1999 - Santa to check out new vehicle hangar at shuttle runway

FloridaToday, Thursday, December 23, 1999 - Hubble's return to science duty assured thanks to Discovery

Ballet in Space: How to be a Hubble Spacewalker - Dec.22, 1999
FloridaToday, Wednesday, December 22, 1999 - Astronauts catch telescope, ready to begin repairs
MSNBC - December 21, 1999: Shuttle snares space telescope
FloridaToday, Tuesday, December 21, 1999 - Hubble Safely attached
FloridaToday, Monday, December 20, 1999 - Hubble's wait almost over
Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Status Report, December 19,1999, 8:30 p.m. EST
HST Project Update, December 19, 1999, 9:30, a.m. EST
Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Status Report, December 19,1999,
1:30 a.m. EST

Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Status Report, December 27, 1999, 9:30 p.m. EST

MISSION: STS-103 - 3rd Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission

KSC contact: Bruce Buckingham

The orbiter Discovery landed successfully tonight on the second KSC landing opportunity at 7:01 p.m. EST. The first landing opportunity was waved-off due to unacceptably high cross winds at the Shuttle Landing Facility. The landing occurred on KSC Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) runway 33. On this mission, STS-103, the orbiter and crew traveled over 3,267,000 miles.

End of mission elapsed times are:

Eastern Time Mission Elapse Time

  • Main Gear Touchdown 7:00:47 p.m. 7 days/23 hours/10 minutes/47 seconds
  • Nose Gear Touchdown 7:00:58 p.m. 7 days/23 hours/10 minutes/58 seconds
  • Wheels Stop 7:01:34 p.m. 7 days/23 hours/11 minutes/34 seconds

Upon close inspection of the orbiter following touchdown, engineers noted that a black tile was missing on the right inboard elevon, next to the fuselage. The missing tile measures 9 inches by 41/2 inches. No significant damage to the orbiter was found and the flight crew was never in any danger due to the missing tile. Initial indications are the tile came off sometime just prior to final approach. Further analysis will take place over the next several days once the orbiter is in the Orbiter Processing Facility.

Tow to the OPF is scheduled to begin at about 12 midnight tonight. Once in the OPF, the Discovery's systems will be deserviced and vehicle safing will be conducted over the next two days. Discovery, as well the other two vehicles at KSC, will be powered-down for the remainder of the holidays. Normal vehicle processing is scheduled to commence Jan. 4.

The seven-member astronaut crew will spend tonight in Florida. Tomorrow they are scheduled to depart at about 2:30 p.m. from Patrick Air Force Base for their homes in Houston, TX.

FLORIDA TODAY - December 27, 1999

Discovery targets Kennedy Space Center landing
By Robyn Suriano

Discovery CrewCAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Their work done in space, shuttle Discovery's crew is due home tonight at Kennedy Space Center after successfully repairing the Hubble Space Telescope last week.

The crew prepared Sunday for landing at 5:24 p.m. EST (2224 GMT) tonight. Weather looks good, but NASA will have its back-up landing site at Edwards Air Force Base in California ready just in case.

Officials want the ship home today or Tuesday, so enough time is left to turn off its systems and secure the $2 billion spaceship inside a KSC hangar before year's end.

Although they don't expect any problems, NASA wants its shuttles safely stored to avoid any Y2K computer glitches.

As always, NASA prefers to land in Florida. So if weather is bad tonight, but promises to clear here Tuesday, NASA probably would keep the ship in space an extra day.

"Right now the weather looks good for them to land (tonight) at the Kennedy Space Center," said NASA spokeswoman Eileen Hawley at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. "But Edwards will be fully supported in case we need it."

Launched Dec. 19, Discovery's crew captured the Hubble Space Telescope last week with the shuttle's robot arm so it could be placed inside the ship's cargo bay and fixed by spacewalking astronauts.

During three trips outside, astronauts repaired the observatory's broken pointing system and installed improved equipment to keep Hubble working until the next NASA visit in 2001.

It temporarily had stopped taking images when the pointing system broke down in November.

With its release back into orbit Christmas day, the $3-billion telescope could start work again around Jan. 9. Early checks show the telescope is working fine - much to the joy of anxious astronomers.

"It was a wonderful, incredibly successful mission," said Anne Kinney, who was among the Hubble scientists spending the holiday in Houston to monitor the mission. "It was hard to miss Christmas, there's no doubt about that. People were missing their families, calling their families. But I don't think anybody would have been anywhere else."

FLORIDA TODAY - December 26, 1999

Hubble released after repairs

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SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) -- After bestowing more than a dozen gifts on the Hubble Space Telescope, space shuttle Discovery's astronauts on Saturday accomplished the last big job of their holiday repair mission: releasing the world's finest observatory to resume its scientific quest.

Frenchman Jean-Francois Clervoy used Discovery's robot arm to lift Hubble from the shuttle cargo bay and, as the spacecraft sped more than 370 miles above the South Pacific, gently let it go. The 43-foot telescope gleamed as it slowly drifted away against the backdrop of a blue, cloud-dotted Earth.

``Thanks for the great Christmas present,'' Mission Control told the astronauts. ``It's just what we wanted.''

As Hubble moved out of sight, shuttle commander Curtis Brown Jr. noted the appropriateness of delivering Hubble back into orbit on Christmas. He wished everyone on planet Earth a merry Christmas and happy, healthy new millennium and so did his six crew members, in five languages.

``It is very special on Christmas Day that we're going to return Hubble back to the heavens and allow it to look at the stars like people did thousands and thousands of years ago,'' Brown said earlier in the day.

Refurbished inside and out, the $3 billion telescope had been parked aboard the shuttle since Tuesday. Two teams of spacewalking mechanics spent three straight days replacing broken and outdated instruments. In all, they put in 13 boxes of gear worth close to $70 million.

``What a Christmas for Hubble,'' exclaimed program manager John Campbell. ``Six gyros, new ones, not normally found under the tree. A new computer. Better batteries. Everybody needs batteries on Christmas. More storage. New clothes. Better fine guidance, and everybody needs better guidance on Christmas. And a new radio transmitter.''

Astronomers can't wait to begin using the Hubble again. The first observations are expected in two weeks, ending a two-month hiatus, the longest ever for the 9-year-old observatory.

Hubble's unparalleled eye to the universe closed on Nov. 13 following a series of gyroscope breakdowns. Without enough functioning gyroscopes, the telescope could not hold steady while focusing on stars, galaxies and other cosmic targets.

The astronauts replaced all six gyroscopes during the first spacewalk and equipped each of the telescope's six batteries with voltage regulators to prevent overheating. Once the observatory was free of Discovery, the new gyroscopes took control, prompting cheers in orbit and Mission Control.

``It was a little bit of a sorry departure,'' astronaut John Grunsfeld told The Associated Press in an interview late Saturday. ``We felt like we could have stayed a little bit longer, learned a little bit more, and that's the way it goes. So we're just happy that everything went so well and that Hubble's on its way to start observing again.''

Spacewalk 2 had the crew replacing Hubble's 1970s-era computer with a faster, more powerful model and improving the telescope's aim with a new guidance unit. Spacewalk 3 saw the addition of a new radio transmitter, a top-of-the-line data recorder and large solar shades.

Because of the rushed pace in orbit, the astronauts had little time to relax let alone celebrate Christmas -- until the third and final spacewalk ended late Friday.

Santa appeared in Discovery's crew cabin, in red suit, cap and beard, to wish Merry Christmas to boys and girls everywhere, especially those in Houston.

In a holiday call to Discovery, NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin asked the seven astronauts if they had spotted Santa delivering presents. Brown said that although they were real busy, they caught a couple glimpses and even had a visit from the big guy himself.

``Well, he must have blessed you because that was one wonderful mission,'' Goldin replied. ``Everyone on this planet is going to share the fruits of what you have done ... you've done all of us proud.''

Discovery is due back on Earth on Monday. NASA cut the mission from 10 to eight days and eliminated a fourth spacewalk in order to get the shuttle back in plenty of time before New Year's Eve, to avoid any potential Y2K computer problems.

Christmas, NASA-Style
[One Hubble Girl's Perspective]
by Ann Jenkins

In the perfect ending to a NASA-style Christmas, Hubble and Discovery thrilled their Houston team with a spectacular light show over NASA's Johnson Space Center. Just two hours after releasing the telescope, Discovery streaked across the Houston sky with Hubble following close behind.

From the lawn outside Mission Control, Discovery appeared as a brilliant light with a long, veil-like wake. Hubble trailed about eight miles behind, less bright but breathtaking nonetheless. About 20 of us stood in awe and gratitude as we savored this finale to an unforgettable Christmas Day.

Earlier, the crew of Discovery gave us the best possible Christmas present by returning a healthy Hubble to duty. Now they soared overhead, treating us to a lovely Christmas light show as they released cabin water into the night sky. "They're flushing over us!" someone joked. But as we admired the bride-veil effect created by the release, I was happy to have them flush over my head.

In a moment it was over, and Discovery and Hubble disappeared into shadow. We stepped back into the Control Center just in time to serenade our orbiting heroes with NASA-fied versions of familiar Christmas carols. The first was to the tune of "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer".with apologies to Rudolf:

Hubble the Goddard payload
Had a famous history,
But with its broken gyros,
Hubble really couldn't see.
All of the other telescopes
They were junk if they broke down,
But Hubble had one last hope,
Astronauts from Houston town.
Then one starry Christmas Day,
103 arrived,
Steve and John and Mike and Claude,
Curt and Scott, and Jean-Francois.
Now all the Flight Team loves you
Cause we're finally out of here,
Hubble instead of Christmas,
Time to celebrate New Year!

Merry Christmas from one tired but elated Hubble girl here in Houston. - December 25, 1999

Discovery Returns Hubble to Duty: Astronomers Ecstatic
By Glen Golightly
Houston Bureau Chief

HOUSTON - The once ailing Hubble Space Telescope soared away from space shuttle Discovery today - one step closer to being back in the science business.

Flying 370 miles above the Coral Sea, Discovery's crew released the telescope at 6:03 p.m. EST and began inching their spacecraft away, careful to avoid damaging or contaminating Hubble with the shuttle's maneuvering jets.

Hubble's release followed three days of spacewalks to put the telescope back into operation.

The process began at 3 p.m. EST when robot arm operator Jean-Franeois Clervoy grappled the 12.5-ton, 43.5-foot tall telescope. In short order, the telescope fired up under its own power as ground controllers ran tests.

At 4:05 p.m. EST, the three locks holding Hubble to Discovery were undone and Clervoy lifted the telescope up and slightly over Discovery's right side.

"What a Christmas for Hubble -- six gyros, new ones, not normally found under the tree."
Dr. John Campbell - Hubble Project Manager

Ground controllers opened the telescope's aperture door about 5:15 p.m. EST to ensure it operated properly while astronauts could still get to it.

Michael Foale and Claude Nicollier stood by to make a spacewalk in case there were any problems in deployment.

About 6:03 p.m., Discovery's arm released the telescope and commander Curt Brown and pilot Scott Kelly inched the shuttle away from the telescope with a burst of the orbiter's thrusters. About 20 minutes later, Discovery fired its maneuvering jets to move further away.

"Congratulations for an excellent deployment," said astronaut Stephen Robinson from mission control in Houston. "Thanks for the great Christmas present -- just what we wanted."

A round of applause went up in mission control at 6:20 p.m. EST when telescope controllers at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, announced Hubble was operating well and pointing toward the sun to charge its batteries.

The $3 billion dollar telescope had been out of commission since Nov. 15 when one of its three operating gyros failed. That changed the mission from routine repair to a rescue mission, but numerous delays pushed the October launch date into late December.

Parting with the Hubble was sweet sorrow for astronomer and spacewalker John Grunsfeld, but he seemed satisfied with his work.

"It was a little bit of a sorry departure. We felt like we could have stayed a little bit longer, learned a little bit more and that's the way it goes," Grunsfeld said Saturday night. We're just happy everything went so well and that Hubble is on its way to start observing again.

Following last minute technical delays, NASA launched Discovery on Dec. 19, the last possible day to launch before mid-January. The space agency wanted the shuttle on the ground well before the year's end to avoid any computer glitches.

During three spacewalks, astronauts replaced all six gyros, a guidance sensor and a radio transmitter. They also installed an improved computer, voltage regulators and data recorder. The scientific community seems to be excited about its large and improved Christmas present.

"It was hard to miss Christmas, I think there's no doubt about that, people were phoning their families and missing their families and so on," said Dr. Anne Kinney, a NASA astronomer. "I don't anybody would have been anywhere else."

Dr. John Campbell, Hubble project manager, thought the telescope makes a dandy Christmas present.

"What a Christmas for Hubble -- six gyros, new ones, not normally found under the tree," he said with a grin. "A new computer, better batteries, everybody needs batteries during Christmas, more storage, new clothes, better fine guidance and everybody needs better guidance and a new radio transmitter."

Hubble's new clothes are insulation blankets installed by spacewalkers. The 2001 mission to the telescope will finish the task.

Earlier in the day, NASA Administrator Dan Goldin congratulated the crew and asked if they'd seen Santa while in orbit.

Brown replied Santa had visited the orbiter.

Goldin praised the crew and also took time to rebut space agency critics' charges that the mission was rushed and potentially unsafe.

"The other thing that gives me tremendous pride and pleasure is how conscientious the entire NASA team was about safety," Goldin said. "Never once did they worry about schedules and made sure that when the shuttle took off, it was in perfect condition."

Hubble could begin some observations in as little as two weeks if early tests go well. It should be back in full operation by sometime in March 2000.

The space agency plans two more servicing missions to the telescope in 2001 and 2003. Hubble will possibly be returned to Earth in 2010 at the end of its mission by a space shuttle.

FLORIDA TODAY - December 25, 1999

Discovery crew spends their holiday in the heavens
By Robyn Suriano

CAPE CANAVERAL - Shuttle Discovery's astronauts will see their loved ones today during video conferences from Earth to orbit. And the crew will float around the table together for their evening meal.

But the Christmas trappings are few in space, where the astronauts will spend the holiday casting free the newly repaired Hubble Space Telescope.

It's the final task of their 8-day mission, which included three spacewalks to fix Hubble's broken pointing system and make other improvements. The last walk wrapped up late Friday.

Their work done, the crew is to use Discovery's robot arm to release Hubble into orbit around 6 p.m. tonight, then head for a Monday landing at Kennedy Space Center and belated holiday celebrations.

Shhh - don't tell him, but astronaut Mike Foale will get some gifts here in Florida, when wife Rhonda and their two children congratulate him for giving Hubble a new computer brain on a spacewalk.

"We miss him, and whenever we're having fun, the kids say, `I wish Daddy was here,' but they understand he's doing something important,'' said Rhonda Foale at home in Houston. "They know he'll be back soon, and we'll have another Christmas dinner then.''

Discovery's crew is only the third American mission in space for Christmas in NASA history.

The Apollo 8 crew celebrated the 1968 holiday in orbit around the moon, and three astronauts spent Christmas 1973 on NASA's Skylab space station.

This time, the agency didn't expect Discovery to be in space for the holiday, but repeated launch delays pushed the mission into Christmas week.

Because the ship had been packed and closed for flight long before, NASA officials say they didn't send along a special holiday meal or tuck away little gifts for the hard-working crew.

That's why it will be all business in space, where astronauts Steve Smith and John Grunsfeld made the flight's last walk Friday. The Christmas Eve excursion included work on a radio transmitter and data recorder.

"Oh John, another beautiful day outside," Smith said when he popped open the hatch leading into Discovery's cargo bay. "Look at that Earth, beautiful."

Their work ended late Friday, after they replaced a broken radio transmitter, installed an advanced data recorder and applied two new metal sheets of insulation over areas of Hubble.

Christmas Eve with the Hubble Family
[One Hubble Girl's Perspective]

by Ann Jenkins

'Twas the night before Christmas and here we are in Houston, more than a thousand miles from our homes and families and anything resembling a normal Christmas Eve. We're the Hubble team from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., but for now, we're living here in Houston, working at Johnson Space Center, supporting the STS-103 mission. And Christmas just happens to fall in the middle of this very important visit to our beloved telescope.

Our families try to understand why this is so important to us, why we need to be away during the holidays. We fight to stay focused and philosophical, but the truth is, as Christmas looms, we're all feeling the pangs of separation.

But thankfully, we're together-our little Hubble family-and most of us have been for a very long time. Many have worked all three Hubble servicing missions. Ours is not a 9-to-5 job, especially in the months leading up to launch. We've been through a lot together, and we've grown close because of it. Some of us know each other so well we swear we're becoming telepathic.

On the East Coast, it's already Christmas now. Kevin, who sits to my left, has three little ones whose pictures he's pasted all over his console. He talks about them constantly, but he won't be seeing them on Christmas Day. Maureen, Colleen and Mindy are apart from their children, too. Come to think of it, many teammates have kids back home. But these parents truly believe that this mission will benefit not only their children and grandchildren, but also generations beyond. This is their Christmas gift to humanity.

I look around the room and search for words to describe this group. Dedicated.passionate.brilliant.creative.yes, that's all true-but also so much more. We are a family.

Tonight, after NASA declared mission success and guided Santa into Houston, we shared Christmas dinner together here in Mission Control. Though I can't be with my own family tonight, I feel very privileged to break bread with this group-a close-knit, loyal clan bound not by blood but by vision.

Merry Christmas from Houston.

FloridaToday, Friday, December 24, 1999
Update for 7:35 p.m. EST

Santa Control NEWS FLASH
NASA's Santa Control has confirmed the jolly old elf made a touchdown in the greater Houston area. The image at left shows his approach to JSC. Control reports Santa has delivered his presents and then took off again on a trajectory over the Gulf of Mexico, presumably to a visit at Cape Canaveral. Of course, your home may be next.

Update for 7:30 p.m. EST

Discovery is in daylight now, flying over Australia with its tail first, nearly at the end of orbit number 75.

The spacewalk is expected to last another two hours or so. The next task is to install the new insulation.

Mission commentator Kyle Herring just plugged the fact that Houston is about to have an opportunity to see Discovery and Hubble fly overhead within the hour.

Herring said that NASA's Web site for information about the possibility of seeing the shuttle in your area is located at

Update for 7 p.m. EST

The new recorder is being checked by flight controllers on the ground and the door to the area is being closed and latched with six bolts.

Next up is to install some new insulation on the outer skin of Hubble, replacing some insulation that has torn and peeled through the nine-and-a-half years that the observatory has been in orbit.

If it could all get done, the astronauts would like to cover six bays with the new insulation. They will do the first two and then Mission Control will decide what to do next based on how long they take to do the first pair.

The spacewalk can only last about seven hours and they need about one hour to do the final clean up in the cargo bay since the bay must be configured for landing.

Update for 6:30 p.m. EST

Grunsfeld has the new recorder in place and has bolted it into place. A few feet lower on the telescope, Smith is installing devices that will allow the two spacewalkers to install new insulation on the outer skin of Hubble later tonight.

They have just passed into night again and there are no reports yet of spotting Santa Claus from space, although Santa was seen earlier today on NASA TV in Mission Control in Houston.

Update for 6:20 p.m. EST

Grunsfeld is still in the foot restraint on the end of the robot arm and has just handed off the old data recorder to Smith. The new recorder is in Grunsfeld's hands and he is being moved back up to the telescope to install the new device.

The spacewalk has just passed the four-hour mark.

Update for 6 p.m. EST

The spacewalking astronauts have finished installing a new radio transmitter and have moved on to the process of installing a new solid-state data recorder for the telescope. The 25-pound device replaces an old-fashioned reel-to-reel tape recorder.

Update for 4:30 p.m. EST

John Grunsfeld is working diligently to remove a series of connectors on a failed radio transmitter. The coaxial cables are a little thinner than the ones you might connect to the back of your TV or VCR but they have the same kind of end.

Anyone who has had difficulty connecting these cables to your home electronics might only begin to imagine what it would be like to try to connect these same type of connectors to a device in the weightless space environment, while wearing oven mitts!

Grunsfeld does have some tools to help him, and it sounds like it's going very well, but the fact is that this is one of the few devices on Hubble that was not designed from the beginning to be serviced by spacewalking astronauts.

Smith continues to free float, assisting Grunsfeld as needed and also making inspections of Hubble.

This work should continue for about an hour.

Our next report will come about 5:45 p.m. EST if all goes well. If any serious problems arise we will update the site immediately.

Update for 4:05 p.m. EST

Mission Control reports that with the successful test of the OCE package the crew of mission STS-103 has now effectively completed all of the major goals for this mission from the viewpoint of the Hubble Space Telescope community. The mission itself won't be a success, of course, until Discovery's crew is safely back on Earth next Monday.

Update for 4 p.m. EST

Mission Control reports that the first repair task today was successful after the new Optical Control Electronics package passed its alivness test.

Grunsfeld is still on the robot arm and Smith is free floating. They have moved to a position more on the front of the telescope as seen from the flight deck windows, where they are about to replace a radio transmitter that failed in 1998.

As usual the work involves opening a door, removing electrical and mechanical attachments for the old unit, installing the new, taking some pictures of their work and then closing the doors again. This task should take about an hour-and-a-half.

There was some discussion about taking a few minutes to install some hand rail protective covers on the telescope but Mission Control asked the crew to press on with the planned tasks for today.

Update for 3:30 p.m. EST

Smith and Grunsfeld are mating the electrical connectors to the new Optical Control Electronics package that is part of the system Hubble needs to accurately point while stargazing.

The effort is going very well and you can tell that this is the second spacewalk of the mission for both men as they are more talkative, in good humor and clearly enjoying their time out in the cargo bay.

At this point we will begin updating this Web site about every half-hour, with a longer break at 5 p.m. while I attend my children's Christmas program at church. FLORIDA TODAY's senior aerospace writer Robyn Suriano will be monitoring the spacewalk and we'll update the site immediately if anything seriously goes wrong.

Update for 3:20 p.m. EST

Mission Control has given the astronauts a go for the first task today, which is to install some new electronics into the telescope that will help the Fine Guidance Sensor.

The work area is fairly high up on the telescope. Smith is free floating and climbed up the telescope himself, with Mike Foale from the inside of Discovery reminding him to stay tethered to Hubble at all times.

Grunsfeld, on the other hand, had to request a ride on the end of the arm, asking Jean-Francois Clervoy to "beam me up!" Grunsfeld said.

"Beaming you up," Clervoy replied.

This work area is more "behind" the telescope than the other areas and very near the solar arrays. The spacewalkers outside and Mike Foale directing things from the inside are constantly reminding each other not to lean back.

At 3:17 p.m. the spacewalkers had the door to the Bay C area open and were about to tether the door open and begin removing electrical connectors on the old piece of equipment.

Update for 3 p.m. EST

Daily set up was officially complete at 2:58 p.m. EST.

Grunsfeld is in the foot restraint at the end of the robot arm on the foot restraint. Since he is wearing Mike Foale's top half of the spacesuit parts of his upper suit has a broken red stripe on it.

Meanwhile, Mission Control reports that the portable foot restraint that kept flopping around yesterday because of a stuck foot switch will not be used today. A second device will be used instead.

At the end of the spacewalk the balky platform will be attached and secured in the cargo bay as planned for the landing.

Also, just a minute ago a robot arm TV camera pointed down on Florida. We waved out the window and captured the image, which we'll post online in a few minutes. Consider it a Christmas wave from Space Online via NASA TV.

Update for 2:45 p.m. EST

Both men can now be seen on NASA TV outside in the cargo bay.

Steve Smith has worked his way down to the area where Hubble is attached to the cargo bay. John Grunsfeld is still working at the airlock in and around the robot arm.

Once again, Smith's suit has a solid red stripe, while Grunsfeld's suit has no markings.

For the record - I think I finally have it straight - the idea of marking the spacesuits to tell the difference between astronauts was to begin with the Apollo 13 mission with red markings on Jim Lovell's suit. But we never saw those pictures on the moon following the mission's abort.

During the July 1969 Apollo 11 mission you couldn't tell the difference between Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. By the time the idea was presented to mark the suits it was too late for Apollo 12's mission in November 1969 with Pete Conrad and Alan Bean. (Not that it really mattered because of the lack of TV coverage of the moonwalk after the failure of the TV camera.)

Apollo 14's Alan Shepard was the first to be seen on the Moon wearing a suit marked in red.

Update for 2:35 p.m. EST

Routine set up chores are in work right now, including retriving tools from the airlock to attach to the mini work station on the shuttle's robot arm and installing what is essentially another leg for the ring platform holding Hubble in the cargo bay.

The first major task will be to install some new electronics that will help the Fine Guidance Sensors do a better job in helping point Hubble while it makes its science observations.

Update for 2:30 p.m. EST

Steve Smith is now outside the shuttle's airlock, floating in the cargo bay. He left just about three minutes ago.

"Ah, John, another beautiful day outside." Smith said after popping open the thermal cover to the outside hatch. "Oh look at that Earth, beautiful."

During final suit checks read off by Smith, he reported his suit remaining time as seven hours and 48 minutes, 97 percent power and 99 percent oxygen. Suit had 18.1 volts DC and 3.4 amps.

I did not copy Grunsfeld's report.

Update for 2:17 p.m. EST

With no radio traffic or mission control commentary describing the airlock depressurization, Mike Foale performed a radio check and then the next thing you know Smith and Grunsfeld were on their batteries, officially beginning this third spacewalk at 2:17 p.m EST, according to my clock.

The airlock is depressurized, the hatch is open and the two spacewalkers are just about ready to float outside.

Update for 2:10 p.m. EST

The lead Orbit 1 flight control team have taken charge in the Mission Control Center. That means that Linda Hamm is the flight director, astronaut Steve Robinson is the CAPCOM and mission commentator is Kyle Herring.

Among the goals for today's spacewalk: replace a recorder, install some new electronics and add some new layers of insulation to the outer skin of Hubble.

Update for 2 p.m. EST

Steve Smith and John Grunsfeld are inside Discovery's airlock pre-breathing pure oxygen to rid their bloodstreams of any nitrogen, to avoid getting the bends when they expose their bodies to the lower air pressure inside their spacesuits.

Update for 1 p.m. EST

Mission Control reports that Steve Smith and John Grunsfeld are right on the timeline preparing for today's spacewalk and will likely begin their adventure at 2:20 p.m. EST. The spacewalk is expected to last about seven-and-a-half hours.

There are no problems reported with the new suit that John Grunsfeld will wear today. The one he wore during Wednesday's spacewalk would not power up properly today, so he is going to wear the spacesuit that Mike Foale wore yesterday.

Once the two men are outside we will provide updates to this page every 30 minutes.

Update for 12:30 p.m. EST

Preparations today for the third spacewalk ran into a minor hitch this morning in that one of the spacesuits power system wouldn't properly work, forcing a last-minute change to use a back up spacesuit instead.

The Extravehicular Mobility Units - spacesuits - come in two major pieces, the top and the bottom. Both the tops and the bottoms come in standard sizes, which can be somewhat adjusted for a particular astronaut. Long gone are the days when an astronauts spacesuit was sized just for him.

Haven't heard an exact time yet when the crew thinks they can begin the spacewalk today. We'll pass that along as soon as we hear.

Thursday, December 23, 1999

Update for 10:30 p.m. EST

The Orbit 2 flight team has taken over at Mission Control. The two spacewalkers are still in the airlock, which is repressurizing now. Everything sounds like things are going well with the crew.

Mission Commentator Kyle Herring reports the official spacewalk start time was 2:06 p.m. EST and the official stop time was 10:16 p.m. EST, making the official spacewalk duration of eight hours and 10 minutes.

Still the third longest spacewalk in program history.

I'll make a brief but meaningless observation that I stopped my timer when I heard Foale report they had gone off battery power, which was precisely five minutes sooner than the official time. Nothing to lose sleep over.

Which sounds like a good idea right about now.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and there is a third spacewalk planned. Space Online will offer updates throughout the day in between last-minute wrapping of presents and cleaning the house before grandpa and grandma come.

If your day becomes too hectic and you can't stop by to read our reports, please accept our wishes for a wonderful holiday weekend with friends and family.

Good night from Cape Canaveral.

- Jim Banke

Update for 10:15 p.m. EST

Mike Foale could be seen on NASA TV entering the airlock at 10:03 p.m EST and shutting the thermal cover for the outer airlock hatch behind him.

The hatch was closed by Foale at 10:07 p.m. EST.

Nicollier and Foale went off suit battery power (unofficially based on my clock) at 10:11 p.m. making this spacewalk eight hours and five minutes long, the third-longest spacewalk in U.S. space history.

The second longest was completed yesterday at eight hours and 15 minutes, while the longest was in May 1992 aboard shuttle Endeavour at eight hours and 29 minutes.

Discovery's cargo bay is now empty of any astronauts, but the Hubble Space Telescope remains on its pedestal with a new computer brain and a new Fine Guidance Sensor thanks to today's spacewalk.

Update for 10 p.m. EST

The two spacewalkers are stuffing the airlock with some of their tools, as well as the balky portable foot restraint. Nicollier entered the airlock at 9:54 p.m. EST and it appears he's inside to stay.

Foale is still outside, but right at the airlock's entrance stowing his tethers.

Update for 9:45 p.m. EST

At 9:37 p.m. Mike Foale's spacesuit sent him an alarm saying his suit is running low on battery power. The spacewalk was seven hours and 31 minutes long at that point.

Anticipating the suit warning, CAPCOM Steve Robinson radioed to Foale a moment earlier that when Foale heard the alarm he could ignore it because at that point Foale still had another 90 minutes of power. At the beginning of the spacewalk, when Foale read aloud his suit status, he said he was good for seven hours and 59 minutes.

Mission Control says the pair of spacewalkers should be inside and off the suit power in about 20 minutes, making their spacewalk duration about eight hours. Both men are now in the vicinity of the airlock.

Update for 9:30 p.m. EST

During the clean up operation Foale attached the portable foot restraint to its storage place and then discovered a problem.

Although the pin holding the device to the shuttle was secure, the platform itself would not stop from flopping around - apparently a problem with a switch that allows the astronauts to move the platform back and forth in a pitching motion while their feet are locked in place.

Mission Control has decided the crew should bring the platform inside, despite its relative bulkiness, and let them troubleshoot the problem overnight.

The platform will have to come back out tomorrow, possibly to be used, although there is a second portable foot restraint device on board.

The safety concern is that mission managers do not want the device flopping around during the landing, so they are going to figure out the best way to tether it in place in the cargo bay if the switch cannot be fixed.

Update for 9:15 p.m. EST

Clean up work continues in the cargo bay.

Nicollier is still on the foot restraint at the end of the robot arm, suspended in the middle of the cargo bay and working on his mini-work station.

Foale is behind him, next to the equipment storage boxes near the base of the telescope.

Note: Earlier I wrote that Nicollier had been present for the five Hubble spacewalks in 1997. I actually wrote 1993, which is correct, but a solar flare must have bit-flipped the number to 1997 when I uploaded. I've corrected the earlier entry and thanks for the e-mail from several European friends.

- Jim Banke

Update for 9 p.m. EST

The old Fine Guidance Sensor has been placed in its hold in the cargo bay, strapped into place and the door to the box shut according to what we can see on NASA TV at this time.

Update for 8:50 p.m. EST

The thinking is that with the clean up work still to do and the remaining suit time available to the two crewmen it wasn't a good idea to try anything else tonight.

Now six hours and 44 minutes into the spacewalk.

Update for 8:45 p.m. EST

Shuttle Discovery's crew has politely asked to do some more work outside today, but Mission Control politely said no thanks.

As a result the spacewalkers will be cleaning up and moving inside within the hour.

Update for 8:30 p.m. EST

The doors to the Fine Guidance Sensor are closed and Nicollier is driving the three bolts to latch the doors shut.

Meanwhile, Hubble flight controllers report the new Fine Guidance Sensor has passed its initial aliveness test, meaning they are able to see electrical power and data commands go through the unit.

The view from NASA TV right now shows the shuttle approaching sunrise, with a bright blue horizon in the background as the crew works in the dark. Truly incredible.

Update for 8:15 p.m. EST

The newly installed Fine Guidance Sensor is ready for its aliveness test after all eight connections were mated by the two spacewalkers and the work to load the new unit into place was declared done.

After the initial trouble sliding the nearly 500-pound box into place, CAPCOM Steve Robinson from Mission Control congratulated the crew saying: "Great work, persistence pays."

The two spacewalkers are now taking detailed pictures of their work with the new sensor unit. Next step will be to close the doors to the work area.

FLORIDA TODAY - December 24, 1999

Santa to check out new vehicle hangar at shuttle runway
Sleigh commander considers hangar rest stop for next year
A Kennedy Space Center traditional holiday news release

The Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) is preparing for a visitor on Christmas Eve. Rumors are strong that Santa Claus may fly by the landing strip to check on the progress of the $8 million Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) Support Complex currently under construction.

The groundbreaking took place on Dec. 18, 1998, just before Santa's visit last year. The sweeping curve of the facility's roof is plainly visible now to the center's employees from State Road 3.

Located on the tow-way at the south end of the SLF, the complex will include a multi-purpose RLV hangar and adjacent facilities for related ground support equipment and administrative/technical support. Intended to support the Space Shuttle and other RLV and X-vehicles, the new complex is jointly funded by NASA's Space Shuttle Program, KSC and the Spaceport Florida Authority. The complex is scheduled for completion by mid-2000, in time to support possible test flights of the X-34 RLV technology demonstrator and other future vehicles.

Santa is particularly interested in anything that has to do with reusable launch vehicles since, technically, his sleigh falls into that category of transportation. It has been upgraded with state-of-the-art precision landing equipment compatible with the Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN) system and Microwave Scanning Beam Landing System (MSBLSS) in place at the runway for use during Space Shuttle landings. However, Santa still relies on the tried-and-true reindeer propulsion system he has always used to deliver presents to good children worldwide every holiday season.

These automated landing systems will be left on in the automatic mode at both the SLF and the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Station when the facilities close down for the holidays. "No government expense is involved in leaving these landing strips ready to support any emergency Santa may experience while in the Central Florida area," said Bill Plutt, the Airfield Services Manager for Space Gateway Support. "We're glad to continue this tradition that started shortly after the opening of the SLF in the 1970s."

Special care will be taken to inspect the runway prior to Discovery's planned landing on Dec. 27 at the conclusion of STS-103, the third Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission. Although it has never been confirmed that Santa has made a pit stop at KSC, a routine sweep of the runway to remove debris after the holidays last year produced one defective sleigh bell, some tattered red ribbon, and a pile of what appeared to be cookie crumbs.

FLORIDA TODAY - December 23, 1999

Hubble's return to science duty assured thanks to Discovery
By Robyn Suriano

CAPE CANAVERAL - NASA's Hubble Space Telescope can look into the universe's deepest corners once again, thanks to two spacewalking repairmen who fixed the observatory Wednesday.

Astronauts Steve Smith and John Grunsfeld rejuvenated the telescope's broken pointing system during an eight-hour spacewalk from shuttle Discovery's cargo bay.

Working steadily while the shuttle flew 360 miles above Earth, the men replaced equipment that directs the telescope's powerful eye toward black holes, galaxies and other targets.

"Absolutely fantastic job today," astronaut Steve Robinson told the crew from Mission Control at Johnson Space Center in Houston. "We're very pleased with everything you've done. You deserve a good rest tonight."

Their successful work clears the way for more walks today and Friday.

But the first excursion Wednesday was critical to get Hubble working again after equipment broke down Nov. 13 and forced the telescope to halt all science activities.

Now if all goes as expected, the telescope could resume taking images in mid-January.

Smith and Grunsfeld's handiwork started shortly after 2 p.m. Wednesday, when they floated outside in their spacesuits.

Smith made three previous walks on NASA's last mission to Hubble in 1997. Grunsfeld was making his spacewalk debut.

"Ready?" Smith asked his partner before heading out, "Hubble needs us."

"Wow," Grunsfeld replied as he emerged to his first view of Earth from outside. He then saw the four-story telescope towering overhead. "That is one beautiful telescope," he said.

The men had little time to sightsee, however.

Smith immediately floated over to inspect Hubble. During NASA's 1997 visit to the telescope, astronauts found tattered areas where the harsh environment of space had damaged the observatory's skin.

To help, the astronauts created makeshift insulation blankets and tacked them over the worst regions.

Smith found the bandages still in place and reported that the telescope's skin seemed to be holding up.

"I don't see any peeling or flaking," he reported while floating along the telescope. "Looks good."

The men then began replacing three toaster-sized boxes holding devices called gyroscopes that help Hubble point toward its targets.

Smith worked from a footstand mounted on the telescope's exterior, while Grunsfeld was attached by his feet to the end of Discovery's 50-foot robot arm.

Inside the ship, French astronaut Jean-Francois Clervoy guided the arm with the help of cameras and views out the shuttle's windows. Astronaut Mike Foale oversaw his crewmates' work from indoors.

Swallowed almost completely inside Hubble, Smith replaced two boxes in delicate work that brought him very close to sensitive instruments.

When television views were available from space, NASA officials watched over Smith's shoulder from a camera mounted on the robot arm.

"He's really buried inside the telescope right now," said astronaut Joe Tanner, a former Hubble spacewalker who followed the work from Mission Control. "It really helps (Smith) to have long arms."

The tallest of Discovery's crew members at 6 feet, � inches, Smith was chosen to do the work inside Hubble because of his long reach.

"Watch your arm there, Steve," Foale told the astronaut at one point when Smith got close to equipment.

"That's the number one thing on my mind," Smith replied.

With Grunsfeld's help, Smith deftly changed two of the broken units before his partner took over and replaced the third. The main job was done by 6 p.m.

Each box holds two gyroscopes, and controllers on Earth reported that all six devices showed early signs of working well.

The men then turned to a Hubble instrument that detects infrared radiation emitted from stars and other objects. After much effort, they opened tightly closed valves on the instrument to release pent-up gases inside.

Not critical, the work nonetheless will help other spacewalkers when they make improvements to the instrument on a future Hubble mission.

The sticky valves took more time than expected, however, and made the pair late for work on Hubble's six batteries.

Grunsfeld worked efficiently however, and outfitted each battery with equipment that will keep them from overheating when they're being charged. Now a decade old, the batteries are growing sensitive.

Their jobs finished for the night, the men stored their tools and returned to the shuttle around 9:45 p.m. The walk's official time clocked out at 8 hours, 15 minutes.

It was the second longest NASA spacewalk ever, next to an 8-hour, 29-minute excursion by three astronauts in May 1992 to retrieve a stranded satellite.

Overall, the walk flowed smoothly to the delight of Hubble scientists, who watch any work on the telescope with dread and excitement.

It's hard for them to see their prized, $3-billion observatory with its insides exposed and astronauts floating around it. One wrong move and the telescope could be damaged.

"You watch with your heart in your mouth," said Hubble scientist Anne Kinney, speaking before the mission launched. "People live and breathe this stuff. It really means a lot to us."

Discovery's mission is NASA's third trip to Hubble, which was launched from the same spaceship in 1990. It unknowingly was built with a bad mirror that left its vision uselessly blurry.

The problem was fixed in 1993 by the first crew to visit Hubble, and a second group returned to improve the observatory in 1997. After Discovery's current flight, future voyages are booked in 2001 and 2003.

NASA thinks Hubble can work through 2010, when it could be brought back to Earth and displayed at a museum such as the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

During the remaining spacewalks, Discovery's crew is to give Hubble an advanced computer brain and spread new insulation over parts of the telescope. The crew would set Hubble free again Christmas day and return to Kennedy Space Center on Dec. 27.

NASA wants the shuttle home before year's end to avoid any potential Y2K computer problems.

Astronauts Steve Smith (with the red stripes) and John Grunsfeld working outside in the cargo bay on Wednesday during the first of three planned spacewalks. - December 22, 1999

Ballet in Space: How to Be a Hubble Spacewalker
By Andrew Chaikin

You're floating in the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle Discovery, 365 miles above the Earth. Before you, anchored in a special mounting, is the Hubble Space Telescope. Your mission, simply stated, is to fix it. In other words, you have been assigned one of the most demanding jobs ever given to an astronaut.

Fortunately, you're working on a satellite designed to be serviced in space by astronauts. Hubble is outfitted with handholds for the spacewalkers to grab onto. And its components are relatively accessible, by opening special access doors. But that doesn't mean your orbital repair job is easy. First off, you're working in a pressurized space suit. And if you want to know what that's like, just ask Story Musgrave, one of the four spacewalkers on the first Hubble repair mission in 1993.

The Woes of Working in a Space Suit

"Suits are hard," Musgrave says. "They're just miserable. Because they're so stiff." Shuttle space suits are filled with oxygen at a pressure of 4.3 pounds per square inch. That gives the spacewalker enough oxygen to breathe -- but it also makes the suit about as flexible as a balloon in a Thanksgiving-day parade.

For that reason, Musgrave was fussier than the finest tailor about the fit of his space suit. To bend at the waist, for example, he would need as much leverage as possible. To achieve this, Musgrave knew, his feet and shoulders would have to make firm contact with the suit itself. He also knew that during a six-hour spacewalk, being inside a tight-fitting suit would compress his spine -- which meant the suit had to be even tighter at the start of the day. "I wear a very, very, very tight suit," Musgrave says.

Musgrave wriggles into his spacesuit

Musgrave paid special attention to the fit of his gloves. Before the flight, he says, "I spent two hours 'tuning' my gloves. I tune every finger." That meant having more pressure on his fingertips and less at the places between the fingers. It meant precisely adjusting the length of each finger of each glove, so that the glove's joints would coincide with those of his fingers.

"You learn a new body."

Even after you have your space suit perfectly adjusted, Musgrave says, don't expect it to feel like a second skin. "You learn a new body. You acquire a new arm. It's not your arm. It's not the suit arm. It's the combination of your arm and the suit arm. The suit does not have the same joints you have, and so you have to learn appropriately."

Musgrave says a prospective spacewalker has to relearn even simple motions -- for example, grabbing a floating tool. "If you think you're going to get into a suit and reach out for something, you're going to miss it," he says, unless you practice it beforehand.

That's just what Musgrave did -- hour upon hour of practice, using a number of methods. First, he did "walk-throughs", wearing normal clothes, with engineers who helped design the Hubble instruments right there, to answer any questions.

Musgrave also practiced on something called the air-bearing table: picture him perched a special platform that rides across an ultra-smooth surface, cushioned by a thin film of pressurized air. Working in weightlessness is like being on a three-dimensional ice-skating rink, and the air-bearing table is designed to show an astronaut how tricky that can be. However, it only allows freedom of motion in two dimensions at once.

Then there was the "Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory", actually the world's largest swimming pool, containing mockups of the shuttle cargo bay and Hubble telescope. Underwater, wearing a pressurized space suit, an astronaut can practice working in three-dimensions. But there are drawbacks. Unlike the vacuum of space, water creates resistance whenever you try to move through it. And of course, a space-suited astronaut in the "water tank" doesn't enjoy the weightless conditions of a real space walk. Being upside down, for example, feels more like standing on your head -- and you're likely to feel your shoulders digging into the metal bearings inside your space suit. "The water ?is no darn good," Musgrave says. "Even NASA doesn't really know about all the weaknesses [of practicing] in the water."

"We never used a checklist. Because ... a ballerina doesn't have a checklist and neither does an opera singer ... We learned it by visualization."
Story Musgrave - Former Hubble Repairman

Nevertheless, Musgrave had spent countless hours rehearsing for the Hubble repairs by the time he and his crewmates left Earth. And most of all, Musgrave had spent a lot of time thinking about everything he would do during the Hubble repair. In fact, he'd been thinking about how to repair a space telescope for about 20 years -- most of his astronaut career.

So, how did he feel, as he awoke on launch morning, with one of NASA's most important missions ahead of him?

"It's just like going to the Olympics. You are totally trained. You are honed to the edge.. You've done what you can do. That's it." Even so, Musgrave says, he could never be sure of success. "You don't know whether you're going to win the Olympics. How could you know?" In the end, he says, he looked at the challenge the way a high-jumper does: "It's you and the bar."

A Dancer's Grace

When Musgrave finally emerged from the Space Shuttle's cabin into the vacuum of space, there was a sense of familiarity about it all. Not just because he'd trained so hard, but because he'd walked in space before: Musgrave had made the first walk of the shuttle program, in 1982. And months of practicing for the repair had given him an extraordinary familiarity with the Hubble's components.

For example, if Musgrave's job was to install a new high-resolution camera, he made sure he could visualize exactly what was going on inside the instrument with every turn of every screw. If that sounds like the ultimate nuts-and-bolts experience, then Musgrave has a surprising description of the repair:

"It was a ballet."

A ballet? Two figures in bulky space suits and massive backpacks aren't exactly the picture of grace. And yet, Musgrave strove for dancer's grace in his movements. "You have to worry about every finger and toe. If you've got a hand out of place in the ballet . you're going to lose style."

During training, he says, "I would go through ballet books page after page," studying the dancer's version of perfection, and translating it in his mind to perfect space-walking technique.

What does that perfect technique look like?

During a Hubble repair, it often means working in confined areas, like the access doorway leading to a delicate scientific instrument, without moving your body. In such situations, Musgrave says, "The ideal form for a space walker is to see a lot of motion at the wrist level, less at the elbow and almost none at the shoulders."

There's another aspect of a dancer's method that the astronauts used: Visualization. "We never used a checklist. Because, you know, a ballerina doesn't have a checklist and neither does an opera singer... We learned it by visualization." The same technique let Musgrave keep track of some three hundred separate tools. He and his fellow spacewalkers had tools to handle every possible contingency. And yet, even in weightlessness, in the shuttle's cavernous cargo bay, Musgrave says he never lost track of them. "You could ask me halfway into [any spacewalk] where all three hundred tools were, and I could rattle them off."

If keeping track of the tools sounds tough, try using them. The hardest part of any spacewalk, Musgrave says, is working with your hands in pressurized gloves. If you want to understand why, try squeezing a tennis ball, repeatedly, for hours on end. Opening and closing your hand inside a space-suit glove is just as tiring. For that reason, Musgrave says he tried to avoid clutching objects. "Any time I see myself grabbing I say, 'Is there another way to do it?' I don't grab things. I push and I touch." To use a power tool, for example, he cradled it between his two gloves, without actually holding on.

Musgrave during his first Hubble spacewalk in 1993

Still, some jobs required an almost impossible level of dexterity. Musgrave remembers that in order to install one component, he had to undo ten sets of connectors, which were secured by tiny screws -- and he had to do it while his feet were anchored on the shuttle's sixty-foot robotic arm.

"There were little connections in the back of this box, the size of what's in the back of your PC. And they had little screws that are only about three millimeters long. I had a wrench that was about three feet long, and I was on the end of a sixty foot arm, and I had to drive these little screws three-and-a-half turns."

That was hard enough with space suit gloves. But keeping the screws from floating away -- possibly inside the telescope's delicate mechanisms -- made it even tougher.

"That was the most demanding job I had ever done," Musgrave says. "I was on the edge of my ability."

The Glow of Success? Not Really

Musgrave made three of the mission's five spacewalks. When it was all over, Musgrave knew he had done his job well. But he didn't share his crewmates' jubliation at a successful mission. "I put on a smile for people," he remembers. "I felt humble and quiet." The reason, Musgrave says, is that he couldn't be sure, even then, that the telescope was fixed. He didn't know that until the repaired Hubble sent back its first new images.

By that time, Musgrave was back home, in Houston. He remembers the thrill of seeing Hubble's magnificent face-on image of the spiral galaxy called M-100. Even then, Musgrave says, he didn't think about what he and his crewmates -- along with dozens of flight controllers, mission planners, and engineers -- had helped to accomplish.

"It was transcendent. I looked at M-100 and I said, "My God . It's just gorgeous. And after that, then I had to think, 'Oh, it's repaired.'"

FLORIDA TODAY - December 22, 1999

Astronauts catch telescope, ready to begin repairs
By Robyn Suriano

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - By day's end, the Hubble Space Telescope could be ready for another decade of work studying the cosmos.

Two astronauts are to fix the telescope's broken pointing system today during the most important of three spacewalks planned for shuttle Discovery's mission.

Hubble was captured late Tuesday by Discovery's robot arm and placed inside the ship's cargo bay, where spacewalking astronauts can work on the four-story observatory.

Walks scheduled for Thursday and Friday include giving Hubble a better computer brain and making other equipment improvements.

But NASA considers today's spacewalk top priority.

Soon after floating outside at 2:40 p.m., astronauts Steve Smith and John Grunsfeld are to begin fixing the broken pointing system that caused Hubble to stop its science work last month.

The job calls for replacing three toaster-sized boxes holding devices called gyroscopes, which help Hubble point toward planets, stars and other targets.

"The gyroscopes on Hubble are the most accurate ever built," said John Campbell, the telescope's project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Without them, stars would just be fuzzy points of light. Those (gyroscopes) keep Hubble stable and day after day, recording points of light and sharp images."

The spacewalks are possible following the perfect capture of Hubble on Tuesday, when Discovery started out about 330 miles away from the observatory.

Gradually gaining on the telescope all day, shuttle Commander Curt Brown had guided his ship within 680 feet of the four-story observatory by 7 p.m.

Brown, an Air Force colonel and fighter pilot, slowly closed the remaining distance at less than 1 mph to bring Discovery within 35 feet of the glistening observatory.

Then French astronaut Jean Francois Clervoy used controls inside the shuttle to grab onto the telescope with the shuttle's robot arm at 7:34 p.m. At the time, the pair was flying 369 miles over the Gulf of Mexico.

"Houston, we have Hubble," Clervoy radioed Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"Everyone here congratulates you on your first-class job," astronaut Steve Robinson replied from Mission Control.

Launched Sunday from Kennedy Space Center, Discovery is on an eight-day mission that will keep it aloft during Christmas before heading home Dec. 27.
Hubble's Christmas company arrives safely

Shuttle snares space telescope - Dec. 21, 1999

Hubble secured within Discovery's cargo bay for repairs

JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, Texas, Dec. 21 - Space shuttle Discovery snared the broken Hubble Space Telescope on Tuesday for a long-overdue service call 380 miles above Earth.

THE SHUTTLE WAS launched Sunday after nine postponements, and it took almost two days for Discovery to catch up with Hubble. The orbital chase culminated at 7:34 p.m. ET, when French astronaut Jean-Francois Clervoy caught hold of the 43-foot, 25,000-pound telescope with Discovery's robot arm.
"We have Hubble grappled," Clervoy reported. Mission Control congratulated him on a "first-class job."

The rendezvous took place while the shuttle flew over Houston, and from NASA's Johnson Space Center, Mission Control reported that some people on the ground could actually see the glint of the two spacecraft as they flew over.

"It was really a great show from our point of view," Mission Control reported. "Ours might have been a little better," commander Curt Brown answered wryly.

The telescope was then drawn slowly into the shuttle cargo bay and latched into a specially designed work platform. Then, using a camera mounted on the robot arm, the crew methodically checked out the telescope's exterior. Beginning Wednesday, the astronauts are to conduct three spacewalks over three days to get Hubble working again and refurbish it.

The Hubble has been disabled for more than a month because of failed gyroscopes, which are needed to keep the telescope steady for aiming at stars, galaxies and other celestial objects.

The collapse of the pointing system left the telescope a little shaky and forced some changes in Discovery's approach. But Brown said he and his crew had practiced for such a case and were not worried.

NASA's Linda Ham and Keith Johnson outline the Hubble repair tasks facing Discovery's crew. It is the third service call to the $3 billion Hubble. In December 1993, astronauts fitted the telescope with corrective optics because of a mirror with a design flaw. The Hubble got its last tuneup in February 1997.

Besides four dead gyroscopes with corroded wires, the Hubble has a broken radio transmitter, an old-fashioned computer and data recorder, batteries that are increasingly prone to overheating, and peeling skin.

At least some of the decline is due to the fact that the Hubble has been orbiting Earth for almost 10 years and traveled 1.4 billion miles, more than 15 times the distance between the Earth and the sun.

Discovery's four designated spacewalkers will replace all those parts and more with improved units, and hang stainless steel covers on the outside of the telescope to protect it from the blistering sun.

Four days of spacewalking had been planned, but one had to be canceled because of the mission's late start, the result of equipment problems and lousy weather.

NASA said all the major objectives can be accomplished in three outings, with any leftover jobs to be handled by future missions.

The shuttle is scheduled to return to Earth on Monday. NASA wants Discovery back with a few days to spare before New Year's Eve to avoid any potential Y2K computer problems.

FloridaToday, Tuesday, December 21, 1999

Update for 7:37 p.m. EST

With Hubble safely attached to the shuttle's robot arm, Clervoy is now moving Hubble into a proper position to place it into the cargo bay and lock it down on a service platform.

Update for 7:34 p.m. EST

Discovery has captured Hubble!

"We have a good capture, we have Hubble grappled," said Jean-Francois Clervoy.

The grapple took place 369 miles over the Gulf of Mexico.

Update for 7:31 p.m. EST

The brakes are off on the robot arm, allowing Clervoy to begin to move in on the telescope to grab it.

Update for 7:28 p.m. EST

Commander Brown now has the shuttle in position for the capture of the telescope using the robot arm. That means Discovery is now about 30 feet from Hubble and very slowly rotating at the same speed as Hubble.

The grapple is scheduled for 7:41 p.m. EST, in about 15 minutes.

Update for 7:25 p.m. EST

Mission commentator Kyle Herring says that the Ku-band antenna is now back in communications mode but it is blocked from being able to send TV signals to Earth, so it will be a few more hours before we get our first look at Hubble during this mission.

Update for 7:23 p.m. EST

Now 60 feet away. Closing at a one-tenth of a foot per second rate.

Update for 7:17 p.m. EST

Flight controllers have finished sending commands to Hubble to prepare it for the grapple.

Commander Brown is flying Discovery to match Hubble's slow rotation and make it possible for Jean-Francois Clervoy to grab Hubble with the shuttle's robot arm.

Discovery is 120 feet away moving closer at two-tenths of a foot per second.

Update for 7:13 p.m. EST

Discovery now inside 200 feet from Hubble.

Update for 7:03 p.m. EST

Discovery now on the R-bar and moving up to Hubble.

Now 600 feet away and moving less than one foot per second toward Hubble and slowing.

This is the third visit of a shuttle crew to Hubble since it was deployed by another Discovery crew commanded by Loren Shriver in April 1990.

Update for 7 p.m. EST

Using a hand-held lazer aimed at the telescope, the distance between Discovery and Hubble agrees with the shuttle's radar.

The shuttle's radar uses the same Ku-band antenna dish that live TV is transmitted to Earth on. The Ku-band antenna can be used for communication or navigation, but not both, which is why there is no pictures from space yet on NASA TV.

Earlier, mission commentator Kyle Herring said there is a chance that once the shuttle gets close enough to Hubble and can't use its radar anymore, that the switch to TV might be possible and some pictures could be beamed back.

If not, the crew is recording this rendezvous on tape and is scheduled to play it back later this evening.

Discovery now approaching the "R-bar," which is an imaginary line drawn from Hubble down to the center of the Earth. Once the shuttle hits the R-bar it will stop and move up the line to complete the rendezvous.

Update for 6:52 p.m. EST

A fourth burn has taken place and Discovery is now 1,780 feet away from Hubble, closing at a rate of 2.2 feet per second.

Discovery commander Curt Brown, floating in the rear of the flight deck, will now take over the final manual approach to the telescope.

Update for 6:35 p.m. EST

A third midcourse correction burn following the TI burn has taken place and Discovery is now about one mile away from Hubble.

The astronauts report they can see the observatory through the optics of one of their navigation devices.

Discovery is moving about 6 feet per second toward Hubble, which is reported ready for Discovery's arrival.

Update for 6:10 p.m. EST

Discovery is now about four miles from Hubble.

Mission Control has reported that a communications link between the ground and Hubble through Discovery has been established.

Update for 5:30 p.m. EST

The 16-second-long Terminal Initiation burn using Discovery's reaction control system jets has taken place without incident. The shuttle is now on a course that will have Discovery and the Hubble Space Telescope coming within 30 feet of each other in about two hours.

The two are separated now by under 10 miles.

Update for 5:12 p.m. EST

Discovery astronauts have been given a "go" for the TI burn. This small firing of the shuttle's steering jets will send the shuttle on an intercept course to Hubble.

The scheduled time of the grapple is 7:41 p.m. but the exact time will depend on the precise orientation of Hubble once Discovery arrives. Hubble is in safe mode right now following the failure of a gyroscope several weeks ago, so its exact orientation in space relative to the shuttle and Earth is not known.

Discovery commander Curt Brown will have to look over the situation and manually fly Discovery into the proper position next to Hubble so the robot arm can be used to grab the telescope. This might require the exact grapple time be adjusted.

Update for 4:45 p.m. EST

All still proceeding smoothly for the rendezvous with Hubble.

Update for 2:45 p.m. EST

Discovery is slowly approaching the Hubble Space Telescope and is now about 47 miles away from the observatory.

Discovery commander Curt Brown and pilot Scott Kelly have made a series of course corrections today to close the gap between the shuttle and the telescope. The final approach to Hubble is expected to begin at 5:28 p.m. with the so-called Terminal Initiation, or TI, burn.

Less than two hours later Discovery will be within 30 feet of Hubble, and then Jean-Francois Clervoy will operate the shuttle's 50-foot-long robot arm to grab the telescope at 7:41 p.m. EST and move it into position in the cargo bay and set it down in a cradle at 8:01 p.m. EST.

Abour 39 minutes later cameras on the robot arm will be aimed at the telescope and the astronauts and Mission Control will inspect the exterior of the observatory.

- Jim Banke

FloridaToday - Dec. 20, 1999

Discovery streaks off for rendezvous with Hubble Discovery streaks off for rendezvous with Hubble Discovery streaks off for rendezvous with Hubble Discovery streaks off for rendezvous with Hubble
Discovery streaks off for rendezvous with Hubble
Shuttle Discovery lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Discovery lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Discovery lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Discovery lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Discovery lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center
Shuttle Discovery lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Discovery lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Discovery lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Discovery lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Discovery lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center
Shuttle Discovery lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in these images captured from NASA TV.

Hubble's wait almost over
By Robyn Suriano

FLORIDA TODAY CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - At long last, shuttle Discovery is in orbit today and racing toward the Hubble Space Telescope on a mission to bring the observatory back to life.

The spaceship lifted off Sunday night from Kennedy Space Center, narrowly beating NASA's deadline for launching this year after months of technical delays and a weekend spate of bad weather.

NASA had to fly Sunday or wait until January to avoid have the ship aloft at year's end and exposing it to potential Y2K problems.

The success puts Discover's seven astronauts on course to fix Hubble's broken pointing system and return home Dec. 27, becoming the first American crew to be in space over Christmas since 1973.

More importantly to NASA, the mission restores the shuttles to flight after a troubled year that has seen the agency suffer through a grounding of the fleet because of wiring problems and two vanished Mars probes.

"We have what I believe is a darn near perfect vehicle on orbit right now, and things are going extremely well," said senior shuttle manager Don McMonagle. He went on to say that "our confidence in this (shuttle) team remains unshaken. The events of the last five months have made us a stronger program."

Throughout today, Discovery's path around Earth will be refined with every orbit to bring it closer to Hubble.

The ship is to reach the telescope Tuesday, when the crew is to capture it with the shuttle's robot arm and gently hoist it into their cargo bay.

Then spacewalking astronauts are to make three excursions Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to improve and repair the telescope, which stopped all science work last month when its pointing system broke down.

In addition to fixing that system, the astronauts are to install an advanced computer brain and spread new insulation over parts of the telescope.

Hubble is to be set free again on Christmas Day, giving NASA officials what they call the best present possible. If all goes well, Hubble could resume work in mid-January and make new discoveries to deepen scientists' understanding of the universe.

"We are in a renaissance for astronomy," said Ed Weiler, NASA's chief scientist at agency headquarters in Washington, D.C. "Over the last 10 years, we've taken great leaps in answering basic questions about the universe, and more importantly, in (finding out) the things we don't know. "I think Hubble has done a real good job putting us in our place."

The orbiting telescope was designed to be worked on by spacewalking astronauts, and a good thing, too. Unbeknownst to NASA, the $3-billion observatory was launched in 1990 with a faulty mirror that kept it from seeing clearly.

The problem was corrected when Hubble's first crew of spacewalking astronauts made repairs in 1993. Another group returned to the telescope in 1997 to give Hubble a tune-up.

NASA didn't plan on returning to the observatory again until 2000, but officials decided to send Discovery this year after equipment failures threatened to shut down the observatory's pointing system.

The much-delayed mission did not get there in time, however, with another breakdown causing Hubble to cease all science work Nov. 13.

With the repairs and two future tune-up missions, NASA officials think Hubble will be at work through 2010 and continue to produce more historic discoveries.

Among its greatest contributions to date, scientists count Hubble's work in: The study of galaxies.

One of Hubble's famous images is a dazzling shot of millions of dots of light - almost each one representing a galaxy containing billions of stars.

To get the photo, Hubble stared deep into the universe for 10 straight days. It shows that galaxies formed very early after the universe was formed in the Big Bang about 12 billion years ago.

The finding shocked scientists, who believed galaxies took a long time to get going.

"We were quite surprised because what we saw were pretty well-formed objects one billion years after the Big Bang, perhaps as little as 800 million years after the Big Bang, which means the epic of galaxy formation occurred much earlier than most models predicted," Weiler said.

Finding black holes.
Scientists always believed black holes existed, but had no proof. Hubble changed that in 1994, when it first took images of matter swirling around the gaping center of a black hole.

"That was the first proof, the first really hard evidence for a black hole, and since then Hubble has been detecting many black holes," said Anne Kinney, a Hubble astronomer at agency headquarters.

Planet formation.
Hubble has taken many images of stars surrounded by the clouds of dust and debris that are the breeding grounds for solar systems.

The pictures - believed to be planets in their early stages of development - make astronomers think that the universe could be teeming with worlds that might hold life.

"Hubble's real contribution is showing that the process of creating solar systems is probably very, very common," Weiler said.

Scientists think Hubble could do more solid work, provided all goes well during this mission.

"I think we have some wonderful astronomy to look ahead to, and what we need to do now is get up there, and get the telescope serviced so we can get back to work," Kinney said.

Discovery's mission started flawlessly Sunday with a smooth countdown and spectacular liftoff at 7:50 p.m.

"We appreciate your patience in hanging in there with us," launch director Dave King told the crew just before liftoff. "We hope you have a great mission to Hubble, and we'll see you back here before the next millennium."

Replied commander Curtis Brown Jr.: "We have one request - we'd like you to send a note to Hubble to get ready, because we're on our way!"

The trouble-free launch contrasted sharply with the agency's last flight in July, when shuttle Columbia had a short circuit during liftoff that took out two computers controlling the ship's main engines.

The ship made it to orbit safely, but could have been forced to make an emergency landing in Africa if more computers had been lost.

As a result, NASA grounded its spaceships in August after just two flights until fleetwide wiring inspections could be carried out.

More than 100 miles of wire were checked, and 50 exposed electrical cables were repaired in Discovery. But the ship's problems didn't end with the wiring.

One of the shuttle's main engines had to be replaced when engineers found a piece of a drill bit lodged inside, and new wiring damage was found on the ship's external fuel tank.

More troubles included a dented fuel line and concern that the ship's main fuel lines may have been welded together incorrectly.

All the technical issues were resolved by Friday, when NASA was ready for its first launch attempt.

Weather didn't cooperate, however, and thick clouds and rain thwarted another attempt Saturday.

After weeks of saying they would not launch beyond Saturday, NASA decided to give itself one more chance and try launching Sunday.

The result is a shortened mission - from 10 days to 8 - and loss of a planned spacewalk that would have focused on more insulation repair work.



Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Status Report, December 19, 1999, 8:30 p.m. EST

MISSION: STS-103 - 3rd Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission

VEHICLE: Discovery/OV-103
LOCATION: On orbit
TARGET KSC LAUNCH DATE/TIME: December 19 at 7:50 p.m. EST
TARGET LANDING DATE/TIME: December 27 at about 5:24 p.m. EST
LAUNCH WINDOW: 42 minutes
MISSION DURATION: 7 days, 21 hours, 34 minutes; with 3 EVAs
CREW: Brown, Kelly, Smith, Foale, Grunsfeld, Nicollier, Clervoy
ORBITAL ALTITUDE and INCLINATION: 317 nautical miles/28.45 degrees

Work in progress: Space Shuttle Discovery and a seven-member flight crew lifted off from KSC's Launch Pad 39B on time at 7:50:00:069 p.m. today. The launch team worked no significant issues during the launch countdown and weather conditions were excellent at launch time. Discovery has embarked on its 27th space flight.

Discovery and crew will rendezvous with the Hubble Space Telescope on Tuesday afternoon for a berthing of the spacecraft in the orbiter's payload bay Tuesday night. Three space walks are planned during this mission to accomplish planned Hubble servicing efforts. Discovery returns to earth Monday, Dec. 27 at about 5:24 p.m. EST.

The solid rocket booster recovery ships, Liberty Star and Freedom Star, deployed from KSC on Wednesday, Dec. 15. They are expected to arrive at Hangar AF with boosters in tow tomorrow at about 4:30 p.m. EST.

HST Project Update, December 19, 1999, 9:30, a.m. EST

The orbiter will tank up today and we will attempt to launch tonight. Launch time is 6:50 pm Central (7:50 Eastern). Weather is looking good for tonight.

Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Status Report, December 19,1999, 1:30 a.m. EST

MISSION: STS-103 - 3rd Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission

VEHICLE: Discovery/OV-103
TARGET KSC LAUNCH DATE/TIME: December 19 at 7:50 p.m. EST (under review)
TARGET LANDING DATE/TIME: December 27 at about 5 p.m. EST
LAUNCH WINDOW: 42 minutes
MISSION DURATION: about 8 days
CREW: Brown, Kelly, Smith, Foale, Grunsfeld, Nicollier, Clervoy
ORBITAL ALTITUDE and INCLINATION: 317 nautical miles/28.45 degrees

Work in progress: Today, Shuttle managers decided to delay Discovery’s launch due to the increased threat of unfavorable weather. Launch managers intended to begin operations to load the external tank at 11 a.m. today, but with a 70 percent chance of weather violation they delayed a go ahead decision to collect more weather data. By noon, weather officials reported an 80 percent probability that weather would prohibit tonight’s launch attempt. The primary concerns are thick layered clouds and rain showers.

Shuttle managers are assessing the possibility of launching Discovery on Sunday, Dec. 19. Current forecasts indicate a 60 percent chance of favorable weather. Along with weather, managers are reviewing the feasibility of supporting contingency landing operations at Edward Air Force Base, CA, prior to the new year.

Tomorrow’s forecast calls for clouds to be scattered to broken at 3,000 feet, broken at 7,000 feet, and overcast at 12,000-22,000 feet; visibility at 7 miles; winds out of the north east at 12 knots gusting to 20 knots; temperature at 69 degrees F; and rain showers in the KSC vicinity.

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