The Space Shuttle Atlantis will be making the fifth and final shuttle mission to the Hubble Space Telescope on Monday, May 11, 2009.
Mission STS-125’s main purpose is to install two new science instruments and repair two others. These repairs will increase the space telescope’s ability to see deep into the abyss of space. Repairs will be made by the crew of the Atlantis who will be utilizing the Canadarm 2 robotic arm throughout the mission, in conjunction with five separate space walks.
The ultimate goal of this mission will be to extend the Hubble Space Telescope’s life span five more years, when in 2014 it is expected to be replaced by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). This mission also marks one of the last NASA will be performing before its aging fleet is scrapped in 2010, to be replaced by a new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). The new CEV is scheduled to make its maiden flight in 2014.
In April 1990 the space shuttle Discovery brought the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit around the Earth. Hubble marked a new age in space exploration, one with clear images from areas of deep space once impossible to view from terrestrial observatories.
NASA identifies three categories of significant findings by Hubble over the past 19 years; galaxies and cosmology, the formation and evolution of stars and planets and the Earth’s Solar System. Hubble’s most notable discovery of the past decade was realized in January 2005, when objects in pictures taken by Hubble in 2003 were identified as “Earth-like” planets.