Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Astronauts Finish Their Fix-Up of Hubble 2-Man Crew Patches Insulation on Gigantic Orbiting Telescope

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Astronauts Finish Their Fix-Up of Hubble 2-Man Crew Patches Insulation on Gigantic Orbiting Telescope

Article excerpt

In a fifth and final spacewalk, astronauts repaired the Hubble Space Telescope's torn insulating cover Monday night with bits of foil, wire, clips, plastic twists and parachute cord.

Mark Lee and Steven Smith hung quiltlike patches over splits in the telescope's thin, reflective insulation, apparently damaged by sun exposure during seven years in orbit. They clipped the 9-inch-by-16-inch pieces of material to rails and knobs on the telescope.

In a spot where the insulation was cracked but not yet ripped, the shuttle Discovery crewmen stretched two wires to prevent the material from tearing. It was frustrating work. At one point, Lee cursed. The spacewalkers had to work by the light of their helmets; much of the job took place on the night side of the Earth. Mission Control added the spacewalk to Discovery's flight so that Lee and Smith could finish the insulation repairs begun by two colleagues the night before. The astronauts discovered the damage last week while installing state-of-the-art scientific gear that will allow the telescope to look deeper into the universe. The shuttle crew assembled the patches early Monday as Gregory Harbaugh and Joe Tanner, making the fourth out-of-capsule foray of the mission, installed the last of Hubble's replacement parts and did a little mending, too. Working 375 miles above Earth, Harbaugh and Tanner covered two holes near the top of the 43-foot telescope with pieces of Teflon-coated material 3 feet long and 1 foot wide. They attached the blankets, brought along to repair possible pinholes, to knobs and rails with wire and string. The two men rode on the end of the shuttle's robot arm to reach the top of the four-story telescope. "Boy, I'm glad I'm not too afraid of heights," Tanner joked, as the arm lifted them 50 feet above the shuttle's cargo bay. …

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