user-pic

Spacewalk #4 ...Part 2

After a long delay involving breaking off the handle that wouldn't budge, and then finding his power tool was dead and having to go retrieve a spare tool, Massimino was behind by two hours, but finally everything was working.

He began removing the 111 screws, inserting his power screwdriver through one hole at a time in the Fastener Capture Plate (FCP). He really zipped through the process, making great time.

Once he got them all loose, he gingerly removed the FCP and--voila! Everyone's eyes are glued to the monitor, looking for any sign of screws drifting loose. But not a single one escaped--the contraption worked exactly as planned.
As Mass held the FCP in front of him, we could all see 100+ tiny screws trapped inside the device--floating, tumbling, spinning, all moving around like a bunch of jittery bees whose hive had been disturbed. It was an amazing sight--and also real easy to imagine how tough it would be to corral even a single one, had it gotten loose and headed into Hubble.

His next job was to carefully extract the circuit board, using a special tool to grab it so he doesn't touch its sharp edges and risk cutting his glove.

He then replaced the circuit board with a new one, and put a new cover onto the spectrograph. The new cover is held on by two simple latches instead of 111 screws.

By now Massimino's glove did have a cut which they feared would turn into a hole, and the spacewalk had gone so long that managers decided to skip the day's second job (installing new blanket insulation on the side of Hubble that faces the sun; the current insulation is degraded from years of sunlight).

So tonight one big question is: will they add installing the blanket insulation to tomorrow's spacewalk, or will it go undone forever? John Grunsfeld is chomping at the bit to add it to tomorrow, but everyone is concerned about their fatigue.

Before today ended, they tested the STIS instrument for "aliveness" and it is working. Today's spacewalk went over eight hours, probably another near-record.

Bottom line: two science instruments repaired in two days, the first time in history that humans have done such work. Astrophysicist Jennifer Wiseman from Goddard told us "this is an astounding victory for science--the telescope is now more powerful than it's ever been. It's a dream come true for the science community."

Everyone here is exhausted but thrilled, and they have high hopes that tomorrow's final Hubble spacewalk ever will be successful.
blog comments powered by Disqus