BLASTOFF

Mission: Refurbish Hubble Telescope

Seven NASA astronauts have set off aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis on a rescue mission—to drastically upgrade the aging Hubble telescope. The wildly ambitious voyage, nearly aborted because of the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, calls for the astronauts the make repairs requiring remarkable precision in zero gravity, with all kinds of dangerous “space junk” flying nearby. “Can you imagine taking out 110 tiny screws with massive great gloves, not losing any, then pulling out boards putting new boards in?” the director of the Hubble said, explaining the challenging work ahead. Though many feel that the telescope, which has been in space for 19 years, is old and obsolete, it is near and dear to many scientists’ hearts and is responsible for some amazing discoveries, including the accepted estimate of the age of the universe. A further challenge to the mission: Hubble’s distance from the International Space Station, which could hamper rescue efforts should the repairs go awry.