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  Mission Updates :: Mar 8 - Flight Day 8 (EVA 5)

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Grabbing the NCCFri | Mar. 8, 2002 - 10:51 pm EST
In today's EVA #5, Shuttle astronauts John Grunsfeld and Richard Linnehan installed a mechanical cooling system to revive NICMOS, an infrared-sensitive camera originally placed on the telescope in February 1997.

For a period of nearly two years extending into early-1999, NICMOS obtained extremely valuable data on the birth and death of stars, the formation of dusty disks around stars from which planets eventually form, and the properties of extremely distant galaxies near the edge of the observable universe. The cooling system passed its aliveness and functional tests during today's EVA.

Infrared instruments such as NICMOS need to be cooled to very low temperatures to suppress thermal radiation from the instrument itself which can overwhelm faint light emitted by astronomical sources.

NICMOS was originally cooled passively by means of a tank of solid nitrogen ice which was expected to last for approximately five years. Due to a heat leak which melted the ice faster than anticipated, the operable life of the instrument was reduced to a little under two years.

The NICMOS Cooling System uses a mechanical cooler run off of electrical power to pump extremely cold neon gas through the NICMOS instrument. Comparison of the new "cryocooler" to the original solid ice cooling method for NICMOS is essentially the same as the comparison of a refrigerator to the icebox of one hundred years ago.

Cryocoolers are felt to have a promising future in space, but their ability to operate over long durations in space has not yet been demonstrated. In addition to reviving the very important infrared capabilities of Hubble and NICMOS, the cooling system will hopefully be a trailblazer for this very important technology in space.

The Hubble Space Telescope Program wishes to express its sincere thanks to the Shuttle astronauts and the Johnson Space Center for its superb performance in this incredible five-EVA Servicing Mission. It is one for the record books.

Watch for the deployment of Hubble around 4:30 am EST on Saturday (3/9).

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Fri | Mar. 8, 2002 - 9:58 am EST
The aliveness test for the entire Nicmos Cooling System was completed successfully. After close-out is finished, the astronauts will have a few statements for back home and return to the shuttle. This is possibly there last EVA of the mission.

Deployment of Hubble will occur around 4:30 am EST tomorrow.

Fitting the NCS radiator to HubbleFri | Mar. 8, 2002 - 5:05 am EST
The Nicmos Cryogenic Cooler (NCC) was installed a short while ago inside of Hubble. Grunsfeld and Linnehan then proceed to fit the NCS radiator to the side of Hubble and work on making the connections between Nicmos, the NCC, and the radiator.

Fri | Mar. 8, 2002 - 3:18 am EST
Columbia Astronauts John Grunsfeld and Richard Linnehan began the fifth spacewalk of the STS-109 mission Friday at 2:26 a.m. CST.

During the 6 1/2-hour spacewalk they will install an experimental cryogenic cooler and an associated radiator. The system is designed to revive the Near-Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer of the Hubble Space Telescope. The instrument has been inactive since 1999, when its coolant was exhausted.

Opening the doors for NCCFri | Mar. 8, 2002 - 3:00 am EST
The crew of the space shuttle Columbia will give Hubble a way to open one of its slumbering eyes during the fifth and final scheduled spacewalk of this mission. An experimental cooling system will be installed on a camera that has been dormant since 1999 in hopes of bringing it back to life.

Astronauts John Grunsfeld and Rick Linnehan plan to step out into the shuttle’s payload bay about 2:30 a.m. CST Friday. The objective of the 6 1/2 hour spacewalk is to install the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) Cooling System - the NCS for short, which consists of two main components - the NICMOS Cryogenic Cooler (NCC) and the NCS radiator.

Grunsfeld will retrieve the NCC from the shuttle's payload bay and both spacewalkers will install the unit inside the telescope (port axial bay). They will then retrieve and install the large flat NCS radiator on the outside of Hubble.

Todays spacewalk is the fifth and final scheduled spacewalk.

 More reports about this mission day
JSC Status Report #15
JSC Status Report #16
Commander Grunsfeld's Notes from Space #5
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