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30 Years Ago: STS-61, the First Hubble Servicing Mission


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“Trying to do stellar observations from Earth is like trying to do birdwatching from the bottom of a lake.”  James B. Odom, Hubble Program Manager 1983-1990.

The discovery after its launch that the Hubble Space Telescope’s primary mirror suffered from a flaw disappointed scientists who could not obtain the sharp images they had expected. But thanks to the Hubble’s built-in feature of on-orbit servicing, NASA devised a plan to correct the telescope’s optics during the first planned repair mission. The agency assigned one of its most experienced crews to undertake the complex tasks, naming Richard O. Covey, Kenneth D. Bowersox, Kathryn C. Thornton, Claude Nicollier of the European Space Agency, Jeffrey A. Hoffman, F. Story Musgrave, and Thomas D. Akers to the STS-61 first Hubble Servicing Mission. The first all veteran crew since the STS-26 return to flight mission in 1988 had a cumulative 16 previous missions among them and all had previous spacewalking experience. During their 11-day flight in December 1993, they repaired the telescope during an unprecedented five spacewalks in a single space shuttle mission, rendering it more capable than originally designed.

The STS-61 crew of Kenneth D. Bowersox, sitting left, Kathryn C. Thornton, F. Story Musgrave, and Claude Nicollier of the European Space Agency; Richard O. Covey, standing left, Jeffrey A. Hoffman, and Thomas D. Akers The STS-61 crew patch Endeavour rolls over from Launch Pad 39A to 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida
Left: The STS-61 crew of Kenneth D. Bowersox, sitting left, Kathryn C. Thornton, F. Story Musgrave, and Claude Nicollier of the European Space Agency; Richard O. Covey, standing left, Jeffrey A. Hoffman, and Thomas D. Akers. Middle: The STS-61 crew patch. Right: Endeavour rolls over from Launch Pad 39A to 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The first Hubble servicing mission proved to be one of the most complex up to that time. With that in mind, on March 16, 1992, NASA named Musgrave, an astronaut since 1967 and a veteran of four previous missions including conducting the first spacewalk of the shuttle era, as the payload commander and one of the four spacewalkers for STS-61. On Aug. 28, NASA named Hoffman, Akers, and Thornton as the other three spacewalkers who in teams of two would carry out the five spacewalks on alternating days. Finally, on Dec. 3, NASA named Covey, Bowersox, and Nicollier as the commander, pilot, and flight engineer, respectively, for the mission. Nicollier also served as the prime operator of the Remote Manipulator System (RMS), or robotic arm, with Bowersox as his backup. The seven-person crew trained intensely for the next year preparing for the complex tasks ahead, including simulating the spacewalks at the Neutral Buoyancy Simulator at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and the Weightless Environment Training Facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Meanwhile, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, workers prepared space shuttle Endeavour for its fifth journey into space. They rolled the shuttle, assembled with its external tank and solid rocket booster, to Launch Pad 39A on Oct. 28. However, following a wind storm on Oct. 30 that contaminated the payload changeout room with sandy grit, managers decided to move Endeavour to neighboring Pad B on Nov. 15, in only the second roll around in shuttle history.

Schematic of the Hubble Space Telescope’s major components Workers inspect the Hubble Space Telescope’s 94-inch diameter primary mirror prior to assembly Astronauts release the Hubble Space Telescope in April 1990 during the STS-31 mission
Left: Schematic of the Hubble Space Telescope’s major components. Middle: Workers inspect the Hubble Space Telescope’s 94-inch diameter primary mirror prior to assembly. Right: Astronauts release the Hubble Space Telescope in April 1990 during the STS-31 mission.

The first concrete plan for placing an optical telescope in space, above the obscuring and distorting effects of the Earth’s atmosphere, originated with Princeton University astronomer Lyman S. Spitzer in 1946. In 1972, NASA first proposed a plan to launch a Large Space Telescope (LST) and five years later Congress approved the funding. As envisioned, the LST would contain a 94-inch diameter primary mirror and launch on the space shuttle, then still under development, in 1983. With an expected on-orbit lifetime of 15 years, the LST’s instruments would make observations primarily in the visible and ultraviolet parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. In 1983, managers abandoned the original plan to use the space shuttle to return the telescope to Earth for refurbishment and relaunch in favor of in-orbit maintenance and upgrades by astronauts during spacewalks in the shuttle’s payload bay. The same year, NASA renamed the LST after astronomer Edwin P. Hubble and set the launch for October 1986. The Challenger accident in January 1986 delayed the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope until April 24, 1990, during Discovery’s STS-31 mission. The shuttle flew to an unusually high 380-mile orbit to ensure that Hubble would operate above as much of the Earth’s atmosphere as possible. After initial on-orbit activation and checkout of the telescope’s systems, it was time for the much-anticipated “first light” images. The initial images, however, puzzled scientists as they showed stars not as single well-focused points of light but as blurred and fuzzy. Investigators learned that the telescope’s primary mirror suffered from a production error, its edges too flat by 0.003 mm, resulting in an optical problem called spherical aberration. While this significantly degraded the capability of several of Hubble’s instruments to return exceptionally detailed photographs, the telescope still produced some good images. NASA put in place a plan to fix the Hubble’s optical problems without resorting to repairing the mirror. With the spherical aberration well-defined, engineers designed a set of mirrors that astronauts could place aboard Hubble during the previously planned first servicing mission.

Liftoff of space shuttle Endeavour on the STS-61 mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope The Hubble Space Telescope as seen from Endeavour during the rendezvous, with the end of the Remote Manipulator System (RMS), or robotic arm, visible at lower right On the shuttle’s flight deck, European Space Agency astronaut Claude Nicollier operates the RMS to grapple Hubble
Left: Liftoff of space shuttle Endeavour on the STS-61 mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. Middle: The Hubble Space Telescope as seen from Endeavour during the rendezvous, with the end of the Remote Manipulator System (RMS), or robotic arm, visible at lower right. Right: On the shuttle’s flight deck, European Space Agency astronaut Claude Nicollier operates the RMS to grapple Hubble.

Planning for the first servicing mission to Hubble began in 1988, two years before the launch of the telescope. With the post-launch discovery of spherical aberration, the scope of the first servicing mission changed dramatically. The primary goal now focused on correcting the telescope’s optics to ensure that its onboard instruments could function as planned. Engineers developed the Corrective Optics Space telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR), a tool to correct Hubble’s blurry vision, consisting of five pairs of corrective mirrors placed in front of the Faint Object Camera, the Faint Object Spectrograph, and the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph (GHRS) instruments. Installing COSTAR required the removal of the High-Speed Photometer, the sacrifice of one instrument outweighed by the saving of the other three. The astronauts also replaced the original Wide Field Planetary Camera (WFPC) with the more advanced WFPC2 to improve the telescope’s ultraviolet performance. The WFPC2 carried its own corrective optics. The astronauts also replaced fuses and the telescope’s two solar arrays, one of which imparted vibrations that prevented precise pointing. On Dec. 2, 1993, space shuttle Endeavour lifted off from Pad 39B at 4:27 a.m. EST, after a one-day weather delay. Following insertion into an unusually high 360-mile orbit to reach Hubble, the astronauts began their initial on-orbit operations by opening the payload bay doors. The next day, Covey and Bowersox performed several engine burns as part of the rendezvous maneuvers. The astronauts checked out the rendezvous radar, the Ku-band antenna, the Canadian-built Remote Manipulator System (RMS) or robotic arm, and the spacesuits, and reduced the pressure inside the shuttle from 14.7 pounds per square inch (psi) to 10.2 psi in preparation for the upcoming spacewalks to reduce the pre-breathe time required to prevent decompression sickness or the bends.

Endeavour approach to the Hubble Space Telescope Hubble secured onto its flight support structure in Endeavour’s payload bay The STS-61 crew poses on Endeavour’s flight deck, with Hubble visible through the windows
Left: Endeavour continues its approach to the Hubble Space Telescope. Middle: Hubble secured onto its flight support structure in Endeavour’s payload bay. Right: The STS-61 crew poses on Endeavour’s flight deck, with Hubble visible through the windows.

On the third day, Covey brought Endeavour to within 30 feet of Hubble so Nicollier could grapple it with the RMS. Covey radioed Houston, “Endeavour has a firm handshake with Mr. Hubble’s telescope.” Nicollier berthed the giant telescope onto its turntable-like Flight Support System (FSS) in the shuttle’s payload bay. Nicollier then used the RMS cameras to perform an inspection of Hubble.

European Space Agency astronaut Claude Nicollier operates the shuttle’s Remote Manipulator System (RMS) or robotic arm in support of the spacewalks Astronaut F. Story Musgrave works on the Hubble Musgrave releases bolts on the replacement solar arrays
First spacewalk. Left: European Space Agency astronaut Claude Nicollier operates the shuttle’s Remote Manipulator System (RMS) or robotic arm in support of the spacewalks. Middle: Astronaut F. Story Musgrave works on the Hubble. Right: Near the end of the first spacewalk, Musgrave releases bolts on the replacement solar arrays.

With Nicollier operating the RMS as he did for all five spacewalks, Hoffman and Musgrave conducted the mission’s first excursion on flight day four. They replaced two sets of Rate Sensing Units that contain gyroscopes to orient the telescope and replaced electrical control units and fuse plugs, providing the telescope with six healthy gyroscopes. Musgrave and Hoffman prepared for the next day’s spacewalk by loosening bolts on the replacement solar arrays, stored in the forward part of the payload bay. The pair spent 7 hours and 54 minutes outside on this first spacewalk. The ground commanded the two existing solar arrays on the telescope to retract, and while one did so the second one did not due to a bent support rod.

Astronaut Kathryn C. Thornton, on the end of the Remote Manipulator System, releases Hubble’s old solar array that failed to retract properly The solar array drifting away from space shuttle Endeavour Thornton disconnects Hubble’s retracted solar array
Second spacewalk. Left: Astronaut Kathryn C. Thornton, on the end of the Remote Manipulator System, releases Hubble’s old solar array that failed to retract properly. Middle: The solar array drifting away from space shuttle Endeavour. Right: Thornton disconnects Hubble’s retracted solar array.

On flight day five, Thornton and Akers stepped outside for the mission’s second spacewalk, lasting 6 hours 36 minutes. The primary tasks revolved around replacing the telescope’s two solar arrays. First, they disconnected the array that would not retract as planned, working only at night since the array generated electricity when exposed to sunlight. With Thornton on the end of the RMS, she released the partially open array as Nicollier pulled her away. Bowersox fired thrusters to separate from the array, the plumes impinging on it causing it to flap like a giant bird. Thornton and Akers then connected one of the new arrays, rotated the telescope on its FSS, disconnected the other array, stowing it in the payload bay for return to Earth, and replaced it with a new one.

Astronauts Jeffrey A. Hoffman, left, and F. Story Musgrave have removed the old Wide Field Planetary Camera (WFPC) from Hubble, the black rectangle at upper left shows its former location With European Space Agency astronaut Claude Nicollier operating the Remote Manipulator System from inside the shuttle, Hoffman guides the new WFPC2 into position, with Musgrave ready to assist Musgrave, left, and Hoffman have installed WFPC2, the white triangle in the middle of the telescope, with Hoffman about to pick up WFPC1 temporarily stowed on the side of the payload bay and place it in its permanent location for return to Earth
Third spacewalk. Left: Astronauts Jeffrey A. Hoffman, left, and F. Story Musgrave have removed the old Wide Field Planetary Camera (WFPC) from Hubble, the black rectangle at upper left shows its former location. Middle: With European Space Agency astronaut Claude Nicollier operating the Remote Manipulator System from inside the shuttle, Hoffman guides the new WFPC2 into position, with Musgrave ready to assist. Right: Musgrave, left, and Hoffman have installed WFPC2, the white triangle in the middle of the telescope, with Hoffman about to pick up WFPC1 temporarily stowed on the side of the payload bay and place it in its permanent location for return to Earth.

On the sixth day, Hoffman and Musgrave took their turn outside for the mission’s third spacewalk. Their primary task involved the replacement of the original WFPC with the more advance WFPC2 instrument. With Nicollier controlling the RMS, Hoffman removed the WFPC1 from the telescope and temporarily stowed it on the side of the payload bay. He then removed WFPC2 from its stowage location and he and Musgrave installed it into the telescope. After stowing WFPC1 in the payload bay for return to Earth, Hoffman replaced two magnetometers, essentially compasses the telescope uses to determine its orientation in space. This third spacewalk lasted 6 hours 47 minutes.

Astronaut Kathryn C. Thornton works in shuttle Endeavour’s payload bay European Space Agency astronaut Claude Nicollier controlling the Remote Manipulator System, Thornton, top, removes the Corrective Optics Space telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR) from its storage location Astronaut Thomas D. Akers, inside the Hubble Space Telescope prepares to install the COSTAR
Fourth spacewalk. Left: Astronaut Kathryn C. Thornton works in shuttle Endeavour’s payload bay. Middle: With European Space Agency astronaut Claude Nicollier controlling the Remote Manipulator System, Thornton, top, removes the Corrective Optics Space telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR) from its storage location. Right: Astronaut Thomas D. Akers, inside the Hubble Space Telescope prepares to install the COSTAR.

For Akers and Thornton, the primary tasks of the fourth spacewalk on the mission’s seventh day focused on the removal of the HSP instrument and replacing it with the COSTAR system to correct the telescope’s optics. Akers opened the telescope’s shroud doors and with Thornton removed the HSP, temporarily stowing it on the side of the payload bay. Nicollier then maneuvered the RMS with Thornton to pick up COSTAR from its storage location and translate them to Hubble where Akers awaited to help with the installation. After closing the door and stowing the HSP, and installing an electronics package with additional computer memory, Akers and Thornton finished the 6-hour 50-minut spacewalk.

Remote Manipulator System operator European Space Agency astronaut Claude Nicollier translates Jeffrey A. Hoffman and F. Story Musgrave to the top of the Hubble Space Telescope The second of two solar arrays unfurls as Hoffman and Musgrave continue working Hoffman celebrates the first Hannukah in space, with a spinning dreidel floating nearby
Fifth spacewalk. Left: Remote Manipulator System operator European Space Agency astronaut Claude Nicollier translates Jeffrey A. Hoffman and F. Story Musgrave to the top of the Hubble Space Telescope. Middle: The second of two solar arrays unfurls as Hoffman and Musgrave continue working. Right: Hoffman celebrates the first Hannukah in space, with a spinning dreidel floating nearby.

On the morning of the eighth day, Bowersox used Endeavour’s thrusters to slightly raise and circularize Hubble’s orbit. Hoffman and Musgrave stepped outside for the mission’s fifth and final spacewalk. When the two newly installed solar arrays failed to deploy after ground commanding, they manually deployed them, and the arrays unfurled without incident. They next replaced the solar array drive electronics and fitted an electronic connection box on the GHRS instrument. Hoffman and Musgrave’s final task involved installing covers, manufactured by Bowersox and Nicollier on board the shuttle, on the telescope’s magnetometers. The final spacewalk lasted 7 hours 21 minutes, bringing the mission’s total spacewalk time to 35 hours 28 minutes. Once back inside Endeavour, Hoffman celebrated the first Hanukkah in space during a televised broadcast, displaying a traveling menorah, unlit of course, and a spinning dreidel.

European Space Agency astronaut Claude Nicollier grapples the Hubble Space Telescope, with its high-gain antenna deployed, just prior to release Hubble slowly drifts away from Endeavour A distant view of Hubble, right, with a crescent Moon
Left: European Space Agency astronaut Claude Nicollier grapples the Hubble Space Telescope, with its high-gain antenna deployed, just prior to release. Middle: After its release, Hubble slowly drifts away from Endeavour. Right: A distant view of Hubble, right, with a crescent Moon.

On flight day nine, Nicollier grappled Hubble with the RMS for the final time and lifted it above the payload bay. Ground controllers commanded its aperture door to open, and Nicollier released the telescope. Bowersox fired Endeavour’s thrusters to slowly back away from the telescope. The next day, the astronauts enjoyed a well-deserved day of rest. They returned the shuttle’s cabin pressure to 14.7 psi and tidied up the spacecraft. On the mission’s 11th day, Covey and Bowersox tested Endeavour’s flight control surfaces and practiced touchdowns using a laptop computer, all in preparation for deorbit, entry, and landing the following day.

Astronaut Richard O. Covey guides Endeavour to a landing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida Workers at KSC continue to safe Endeavour following its landing Images of M100 galactic nucleus before, left, and after the first servicing mission showing the improved optical qualities
Left: Astronaut Richard O. Covey guides Endeavour to a landing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Middle: Workers at KSC continue to safe Endeavour following its landing. Right: Images of M100 galactic nucleus before, left, and after the first servicing mission showing the improved optical qualities.

On Dec. 13, 1993, their 12th and final day in space, the astronauts donned their pressure suits and prepared for the return to Earth. Due to predicted worsening weather conditions at KSC, Mission Control elected to bring them home one orbit earlier than planned. Covey guided Endeavour to a smooth landing at night at KSC, concluding a flight of 10 days, 19 hours, 59 minutes. They circled the Earth 163 times. Within a month, new images from Hubble indicated the repairs returned the telescope to its expected capabilities, providing astronomers with a unique observation platform. The lessons learned from planning and executing the complex series of spacewalks, with extensive coordination with teams on the ground, proved highly useful not only for future Hubble servicing mission but also for the difficult spacewalks required to assemble and maintain the International Space Station.

Timeline of the Hubble Space Telescope’s instruments and their replacements during servicing missions Hubble as it appeared after its release during the final servicing mission in 2009
Left: Timeline of the Hubble Space Telescope’s instruments and their replacements during servicing missions. Right: Hubble as it appeared after its release during the final servicing mission in 2009.

Although the STS-61 crew’s work left the Hubble Space Telescope in better condition than originally designed, over the years it required additional servicing to ensure it met its expected 15-year on-orbit life. Four additional shuttle crews serviced the telescope between 1997 and 2009, and today it carries a suite of instruments far more advanced than its original complement. During the five servicing missions, 16 space walking astronauts conducted 23 spacewalks totaling more than 165 hours, or just under 7 days, to make repairs or improvements to the telescope’s capabilities. To summarize the discoveries made by scientists using data from the Hubble Space Telescope is well beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that during its more than 30 years of operation, information and images returned by Hubble continue to revolutionize astronomy, literally causing scientists to rewrite textbooks, and have dramatically altered how the public views the wonders of the universe. On the technical side, the launch of Hubble and the servicing missions to maintain and upgrade its capabilities have proven conclusively the value of maintainability of space-based scientific platforms. 

Watch the STS-61 crew narrate a video of their Hubble servicing mission.

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Last Updated
Dec 04, 2023

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      At the LRL, other preparations for the return of the Apollo 11 astronauts from the Moon included a simulation of the arrival and processing of the Moon rocks and other items following the mission. The rocks, crew biological samples, and film would be flown from the prime recovery ship to Houston ahead of the crew. Engineers and technicians also rehearsed the arrival of the crew with a dry run of docking a Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF) to the LRL’s loading dock. Following the test, workers loaded two MQFs, a prime and a backup, onto a cargo plane for transport to Hawaii and loading onto the prime recovery ship.

      Left: Workers in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, prepare to lift a boilerplate Apollo Command Module onto the U.S.S. Hornet for splashdown and recovery rehearsals. Image credit: courtesy U.S. Navy Bob Fish. Middle: Crews from the U.S.S. Hornet practice recovery operations. Right: Recovery team members dry their Biological Isolation Garments aboard the U.S.S. Hornet following a recovery exercise.
      On June 12, the U.S. Navy notified NASA that it had selected the U.S.S. Hornet (CVS-12) as the prime recovery ship for Apollo 11 to undertake the most complex recovery of an astronaut crew. The same day, with Hornet docked in her home port of Long Beach, California, its commanding officer, Capt. Carl J. Seiberlich, held the first recovery team meeting to review the Apollo Recovery Operations Manual, written by MSC’s Landing and Recovery Division. Between June 12 and 25, Hornet onloaded NASA equipment required for the recovery. On June 27, Hornet left Long Beach for a three-hour stop in San Diego, where air group maintenance and support personnel embarked. The next day, after Hornet left for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, pilots flew the aircraft required to support the recovery onto the carrier. During the cruise to Pearl Harbor, Hornet’s 90-man team detailed for Apollo 11 recovery operations held numerous meetings and table-top simulations. After arriving in Hawaii on July 2, workers loaded a boilerplate Apollo capsule onto the aircraft carrier to be used for recovery practice. The NASA recovery team, the Frogmen swimmers from the U.S. Navy’s Underwater Demolition Team 11 (UDT-11) who assisted with the recovery, and some media personnel arrived onboard. For the recovery operation, Capt. Seiberlich adopted the motto “Hornet Plus Three,” indicating the goal of a safe recovery of the three astronauts returning from the Moon. On July 3, Capt. Seiberlich introduced the 35-member NASA recovery team to the Hornet’s crew. Donald E. Stullken, Chief of the Recovery Operations Branch at MSC and inventor of the inflatable flotation collar attached by swimmers to the capsule after splashdown, led the NASA team. His assistant John C. Stonesifer oversaw the decontamination and quarantine operations. Stullken and Stonesifer briefed Hornet’s Command Module Retrieval Team on all events associated with the recovery and retrieval of an Apollo capsule and its crew. On July 6, workers loaded the two MQFs aboard Hornet. The prime MQF would house the returning astronauts, a flight surgeon, and an engineer from shortly after splashdown until their arrival at the LRL in Houston several days later. The second MQF served as a backup should a problem arise with the first or if violations of quarantine protocols required additional personnel to be isolated. Along with the MQFs, Navy personnel loaded other equipment necessary for the recovery, including 55 one-gallon containers of sodium hypochlorite to be used as a disinfectant. Between July 7 and 9, the Hornet conducted nine Simulated Recovery Exercises in local Hawaiian waters. Lieutenant Clarence J. “Clancy” Hatleberg led the team as the designated decontamination swimmer with U.S. Navy Frogmen serving as stand-ins for the astronauts, all wearing Biological Isolation Garments as they would on recovery day. The Hornet returned to Pearl Harbor to pick up the rest of the NASA recovery team before setting sail on July 12 for its first recovery position. 
      Apollo 12

      Left: Apollo 12 astronauts Charles “Pete” Conrad, left, Alan L. Bean, and Richard F. Gordon prepare to enter their Command Module for an altitude test. Right: Conrad after completing a flight in the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle.

      Left: In the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building (MSOB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, workers finish attaching the landing gear to the Apollo 12 Lunar Module (LM). Middle left: Workers in the MSOB prepare to mate the Apollo 12 Command and Service Modules with the Spacecraft LM Adapter. Middle right: Workers move the assembled Apollo 12 spacecraft from the MSOB to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Right: In the VAB. workers lower the Apollo 12 spacecraft onto its Saturn V rocket.
      With Apollo 11 on its launch pad, workers continued to prepare Apollo 12 for its eventual journey to the Moon, targeting a September launch should Apollo 11 not succeed. If Apollo 11 succeeded in its Moon landing mission, Apollo 12 would fly later, most likely in November, to attempt the second Moon landing at a different location. In KSC’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), the three-stage Saturn V stood on its Mobile Launcher, awaiting the arrival of the Apollo spacecraft. In the nearby Manned Spacecraft Operations Building, the Apollo 12 prime crew of Charles “Pete” Conrad, Richard F. Gordon, and Alan L. Bean and their backups David R. Scott, Alfred M. Worden, and James B. Irwin completed altitude chamber tests of the CM and LM during the first two weeks of June. Workers removed the spacecraft from the vacuum chambers, mated them on June 27, and transferred them to the VAB on July 1 for stacking on the Saturn V rocket. At Ellington AFB in Houston, Conrad completed his first flights aboard LLTV-2 on July 9-10.
      Apollo 13

      Left: In the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, workers place the first stage of the Apollo 13 Saturn V rocket onto the Mobile Launcher to begin the stacking process. Middle: The Apollo 13 Command and Service Modules arrive at KSC. Right: The ascent stage of the Apollo 13 Lunar Module arrives at KSC.
      In the event that neither Apollo 11 nor 12 succeeded in landing on the Moon, NASA stood prepared to try a third time with Apollo 13 in November or December, still in time to meet President Kennedy’s deadline. The Apollo 13 Command and Service Modules arrived at KSC on June 26, followed by the LM ascent and descent stages on June 28 and 29, respectively. The Saturn V’s S-IC first stage arrived on June 16 and workers placed it on its Mobile Launcher two days later. The S-IVB third stage and S-II second stage arrived June 13 and 29, respectively, and workers stacked the stages in mid-July.
      To be continued …
      News from around the world in June 1969:
      June 3 – Eric Carle publishes children’s picture book “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”
      June 3 – The final episode of Star Trek airs on NBC.
      June 5 – The Tupolev Tu-144 became the first passenger jet to fly faster than the speed of sound.
      June 10 – The Nixon Administration cancels the U.S. Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory program.
      June 15 – “Hee Haw,” with Roy Clark and Buck Owens, premieres on CBS.
      June 20 – Georges Pompidou sworn in as the 19th President of France.
      June 20 – 200,000 attend Newport ’69, then largest-ever pop concert, in Northridge, California.
      June 23 – Warren E. Burger sworn in as U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice.
      June 28 – Police carry out a raid at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York, beginning the modern LGBT rights movement.
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    • By NASA
      To celebrate the 21st anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope’s deployment into space, astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., pointed Hubble’s eye at an especially photogenic pair of interacting galaxies called Arp 273. The larger of the spiral galaxies, known as UGC 1810, has a disk that is distorted into a rose-like shape by the gravitational tidal pull of the companion galaxy below it, known as UGC 1813. This image is a composite of Hubble Wide Field Camera 3 data taken on December 17, 2010, with three separate filters that allow a broad range of wavelengths covering the ultraviolet, blue, and red portions of the spectrum.
      View the full article
    • By European Space Agency
      For the first time, a phenomenon astronomers have long hoped to image directly has been captured by the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope’s Near-InfraRed Camera (NIRCam). In this stunning image of the Serpens Nebula, the discovery lies in the northern area of this young, nearby star-forming region.
      View the full article
    • By NASA
      6 Min Read First of Its Kind Detection Made in Striking New Webb Image
      The Serpens Nebula from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Alignment of bipolar jets confirms star formation theories
      For the first time, a phenomenon astronomers have long hoped to directly image has been captured by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam). In this stunning image of the Serpens Nebula, the discovery lies in the northern area (seen at the upper left) of this young, nearby star-forming region.
      Astronomers found an intriguing group of protostellar outflows, formed when jets of gas spewing from newborn stars collide with nearby gas and dust at high speeds. Typically these objects have varied orientations within one region. Here, however, they are slanted in the same direction, to the same degree, like sleet pouring down during a storm.
      Image: Serpens Nebula (NIRCam)
      In this image of the Serpens Nebula from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, astronomers found a grouping of aligned protostellar outflows within one small region (the top left corner). Serpens is a reflection nebula, which means it’s a cloud of gas and dust that does not create its own light, but instead shines by reflecting the light from stars close to or within the nebula. The discovery of these aligned objects, made possible due to Webb’s exquisite spatial resolution and sensitivity in near-infrared wavelengths, is providing information into the fundamentals of how stars are born.
      “Astronomers have long assumed that as clouds collapse to form stars, the stars will tend to spin in the same direction,” said principal investigator Klaus Pontoppidan, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “However, this has not been seen so directly before. These aligned, elongated structures are a historical record of the fundamental way that stars are born.”
      So just how does the alignment of the stellar jets relate to the rotation of the star? As an interstellar gas cloud crashes in on itself to form a star, it spins more rapidly. The only way for the gas to continue moving inward is for some of the spin (known as angular momentum) to be removed. A disk of material forms around the young star to transport material down, like a whirlpool around a drain. The swirling magnetic fields in the inner disk launch some of the material into twin jets that shoot outward in opposite directions, perpendicular to the disk of material.
      In the Webb image, these jets are signified by bright clumpy streaks that appear red, which are shockwaves from the jet hitting surrounding gas and dust. Here, the red color represents the presence of molecular hydrogen and carbon monoxide.
      “This area of the Serpens Nebula – Serpens North – only comes into clear view with Webb,” said lead author Joel Green of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. “We’re now able to catch these extremely young stars and their outflows, some of which previously appeared as just blobs or were completely invisible in optical wavelengths because of the thick dust surrounding them.”
      Astronomers say there are a few forces that potentially can shift the direction of the outflows during this period of a young star’s life. One way is when binary stars spin around each other and wobble in orientation, twisting the direction of the outflows over time.
      Stars of the Serpens
      The Serpens Nebula, located 1,300 light-years from Earth, is only one or two million years old, which is very young in cosmic terms. It’s also home to a particularly dense cluster of newly forming stars (~100,000 years old), seen at the center of this image. Some of these stars will eventually grow to the mass of our Sun.
      “Webb is a young stellar object-finding machine,” Green said. “In this field, we pick up sign posts of every single young star, down to the lowest mass stars.”
      “It’s a very complete picture we’re seeing now,” added Pontoppidan.
      So, throughout the region in this image, filaments and wisps of different hues represent reflected starlight from still-forming protostars within the cloud. In some areas, there is dust in front of that reflection, which appears here with an orange, diffuse shade.
      This region has been home to other coincidental discoveries, including the flapping “Bat Shadow,” which earned its name when 2020 data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope revealed a star’s planet-forming disk to flap, or shift. This feature is visible at the center of the Webb image.
      Future Studies
      The new image, and serendipitous discovery of the aligned objects, is actually just the first step in this scientific program. The team will now use Webb’s NIRSpec (Near-Infrared Spectrograph) to investigate the chemical make-up of the cloud.
      The astronomers are interested in determining how volatile chemicals survive star and planet formation. Volatiles are compounds that sublimate, or transition from a solid directly to a gas, at a relatively low temperature – including water and carbon monoxide. They’ll then compare their findings to amounts found in protoplanetary disks of similar-type stars.
      “At the most basic form, we are all made of matter that came from these volatiles. The majority of water here on Earth originated when the Sun was an infant protostar billions of years ago,” Pontoppidan said. “Looking at the abundance of these critical compounds in protostars just before their protoplanetary disks have formed could help us understand how unique the circumstances were when our own solar system formed.”
      These observations were taken as part of General Observer program 1611. The team’s initial results have been accepted in the Astrophysical Journal.
      The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb is solving mysteries in our solar system, looking beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probing the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).
      Downloads
      Right click any image to save it or open a larger version in a new tab/window via the browser’s popup menu.
      View/Download all image products at all resolutions for this article from the Space Telescope Science Institute.
      Science Paper: The science paper by J. Green et al., PDF (7.93 MB) 
      Media Contacts
      Laura Betz – laura.e.betz@nasa.gov, Rob Gutro – rob.gutro@nasa.gov
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
      Hanna Braun hbraun@stsci.edu Christine Pulliam – cpulliam@stsci.edu
      Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
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      Last Updated Jun 20, 2024 Editor Stephen Sabia Contact Laura Betz laura.e.betz@nasa.gov Related Terms
      Astrophysics Goddard Space Flight Center James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Nebulae Science & Research Star-forming Nebulae The Universe
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    • By NASA
      2 min read
      NASA Releases Hubble Image Taken in New Pointing Mode
      This NASA Hubble Space Telescope features the galaxy NGC 1546. NASA, ESA, STScI, David Thilker (JHU) NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has taken its first new images since changing to an alternate operating mode that uses one gyro.
      The spacecraft returned to science operations June 14 after being offline for several weeks due to an issue with one of its gyroscopes (gyros), which help control and orient the telescope.
      This new image features NGC 1546, a nearby galaxy in the constellation Dorado. The galaxy’s orientation gives us a good view of dust lanes from slightly above and backlit by the galaxy’s core. This dust absorbs light from the core, reddening it and making the dust appear rusty-brown. The core itself glows brightly in a yellowish light indicating an older population of stars. Brilliant-blue regions of active star formation sparkle through the dust. Several background galaxies also are visible, including an edge-on spiral just to the left of NGC 1546.
      Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 captured the image as part of a joint observing program between Hubble and NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. The program also uses data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, allowing scientists to obtain a highly detailed, multiwavelength view of how stars form and evolve.
      The image represents one of the first observations taken with Hubble since transitioning to the new pointing mode, enabling more consistent science operations. The NASA team expects that Hubble can do most of its science observations in this new mode, continuing its groundbreaking observations of the cosmos.
      “Hubble’s new image of a spectacular galaxy demonstrates the full success of our new, more stable pointing mode for the telescope,” said Dr. Jennifer Wiseman, senior project scientist for Hubble at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We’re poised now for many years of discovery ahead, and we’ll be looking at everything from our solar system to exoplanets to distant galaxies. Hubble plays a powerful role in NASA’s astronomical toolkit.”
      Launched in 1990, Hubble has been observing the universe for more than three decades, recently celebrating its 34th anniversary. Read more about some of Hubble’s greatest scientific discoveries.
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      Facebook logo @NASAHubble @NASAHubble Instagram logo @NASAHubble Media Contact:
      Claire Andreoli
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
      claire.andreoli@nasa.gov
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      Last Updated Jun 18, 2024 Editor Andrea Gianopoulos Location NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Related Terms
      Astrophysics Astrophysics Division Galaxies Goddard Space Flight Center Hubble Space Telescope Missions The Universe Keep Exploring Discover More Topics From NASA’s Hubble
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