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NOVA scienceNOW: Saving Hubble

Program Overview

Scientists describe the risky, high-stakes repairs on the Hubble Space Telescope scheduled for fall 2008.

This NOVA scienceNOW segment:

  • recounts how the Hubble Space Telescope has revolutionized astrophysics and brought spectacular views of the universe to the public, making it the best-known scientific instrument in the world.

  • states that several of Hubble's instruments no longer work.

  • explains that a shuttle mission is scheduled to repair the telescope. Two teams of astronaut spacewalkers will replace batteries, install cameras, and remove old optics. A crucial job involves repairing the power supply for the main camera.

  • describes the complex, dangerous repair mission. Much of the repair work is delicate, akin to surgery. Yet astronauts will be wearing spacesuits and thick gloves and working in weightless conditions.

  • details that repairing the main camera involves removing 32 tiny screws that hold a protective cover plate with edges so sharp that it can cut a spacesuit. If a spacesuit depressurizes, it would kill the astronaut wearing it.

  • describes how astronauts practice on a mock Hubble telescope that sits in a huge pool of water called a neutral buoyancy tank. The tank simulates the repair experience, enabling astronauts to practice making detailed repairs while wearing bulky pressurized suits.

  • points out that no amount of practice will guarantee that the Hubble repairs will be made effectively or safely.

  • concludes that the project will likely lead to great discoveries in the future.

Taping Rights: Can be used up to one year after the program is taped off the air.

Teacher's Guide
NOVA scienceNOW: Saving Hubble