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Atlantis Embarks on Last Hubble Telescope Repair Mission

The space shuttle Atlantis lifted off Monday on the fifth and final mission to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. The crew will add a new camera and make other changes. Spencer Michels reports.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now, the space shuttle goes on a rescue-and-repair mission. We have a NewsHour Science Unit report by correspondent Spencer Michels.

  • SPENCER MICHELS:

    It is a crucial rescue-and-repair mission to give new life to the ailing, but extremely valuable Hubble telescope.

    The Space Shuttle Atlantis soared into space from Florida's Kennedy Space Center just after 2:00 this afternoon, carrying a crew of six whose principal job is to fix the giant telescope.

    Today's launch was the start of the final and possibly most difficult service call yet. The shuttle will join the telescope 353 miles above the Earth, and the encounter will last 11 days, as the Hubble orbits the Earth every 97 minutes.

    The precision of the work demanded makes this Hubble visit especially daunting. There's the need for 31 hours of risky spacewalks and the danger of flying space debris. NASA officials said today's launch with a bittersweet moment.

  • ED WEILER, NASA:

    I'm happy to see the launch, but it's sad knowing it's the last shuttle-prepared mission for the Hubble Space Telescope. But I'm looking forward to a successful repair and yet five, six, seven more years of Hubble.