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Bolt, battery slow Hubble repairs

Astronauts work to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope during a space walk on Sunday. On Tuesday, Atlantis will release Hubble, which NASA hopes will keep operating for years.

NASA

Astronauts work to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope during a space walk on Sunday. On Tuesday, Atlantis will release Hubble, which NASA hopes will keep operating for years.

HOUSTON — Spacewalkers' specially designed tools couldn't dislodge a balky bolt interfering with repairs Sunday at the Hubble Space Telescope. So they took a different approach: brute force.

And it worked. But it set spacewalkers so far behind that they couldn't get all their tasks done.

Atlantis astronaut Michael Massimino couldn't remove one bolt attaching a hand rail to the outside of a scientific instrument he needed to fix. The rail had to be removed or at least bent out of the way.

That was only the beginning of a hard-luck day. The balky bolt and other tiny problems took up so much time, spacewalkers had to abandon the second part of their walk: replacing worn insulation on the telescope.

When several tries with different tools couldn't remove the stripped-out bolt, Mission Control told Massimino to go for the less precise yank. That freed the bolt.

After nearly two hours of work on the balky bolt, astronauts went back to the plan to bring the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph back from the dead. Early tests show the spectrograph, disabled by a power failure five years ago, was brought back to life. But when further tests started, the instrument put itself into "safe mode" because of temperature problems.

Massimino's run of bad luck only continued. While trying to install a special plate to remove 111 tiny screws that held the cover of the scientific instrument in place, a tool's battery died. It took more than half an hour for him to go back to the shuttle, swap out batteries and recharge his oxygen supply.

By the time he replaced the internal electronics power supply card in the spectrograph, it was just about the scheduled time for the end of the space walk. And 90 minutes of work remained.

So coordinators on the ground decided that the second part of Sunday's task, the insulation, had to be put off until today.

Three of the four space walks so far this mission have been delayed by such tiny problems.

Bolt, battery slow Hubble repairs 05/17/09 [Last modified: Sunday, May 17, 2009 10:35pm]

    

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