First Spacewalk Finished!

By Julianne Dalcanton | May 14, 2009 11:34 am

WFPC2 has been taken out of Hubble. The new super-fantastic imaging camera WFC3 is in! And better yet, it passed the “liveness test” (i.e. the patient is awake and talking to the nurses).

Even more importantly, the new data system is in, and also live! The need to repair this system was why they delayed the mission last November, so congrats to the engineering team for coming up with a successful fix in such short order. If this repair hadn’t worked, then there would have been no redundancy in getting data from Hubble back down to earth. There’s still lots of testing to be done (i.e. passing the liveness test isn’t the same thing as “working perfectly”), but so far, things look good.

Apparently, the repairs didn’t quite go as expected. I have previously described Hubble as the equivalent of having a 20 year old VW in space. If you’ve ever worked on old Beetles, you know that while they’re simple to repair in principle, you can spend half your time just trying to free rusty bolts. Turned out Hubble had the same problem, and the astronauts had a devil of a time freeing some of the bolts on WFPC2. They tried several tools (“Yo John! Get me a bigger wrench!”) and eventually had to go over the torque limits. But, whatever works!

Really great news all around.


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