Shuttle Atlantis Snags Hubble

By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 13, 2009 12:52 PM CDT
Shuttle Atlantis Snags Hubble
The space shuttle Atlantis lifts off Monday May 11, 2009 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.   (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

(Newser) – The Atlantis astronauts have captured the Hubble Space Telescope, grabbing the orbiting observatory early this afternoon for the first time since 2002. Astronaut Megan McArthur caught the school bus-sized telescope with the space shuttle's robot arm. The crew now faces five days of treacherous telescope repairs to the 19-year-old Hubble.

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The repairs will be dangerous, because the Atlantis and Hubble are flying in a 350-mile-high orbit, which is littered with space junk. NASA has another shuttle on standby at its Florida launch site, ready to rush to the rescue if Atlantis is smacked by orbital debris and severely damaged. The shuttle was already hit by debris during its launch Monday, but NASA says the 21-inch stretch of nicks on the shuttle's thermal tiles is not serious. (Read more Atlantis Space Shuttle stories.)

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