The space shuttle Atlantis blasted off from Florida yesterday afternoon carrying a seven-member crew to tune-up the Hubble Space Telescope for the last time. Like any job, proper tools are essential for working efficiently and effectively but this takes on a whole new meaning in space. The astronauts tasked with fixing the most powerful telescope in the world will be carrying 180 special tools, 116 of them designed specifically for this mission by the Goddard Space Flight Center.
In space radiation, zero-G and extreme temperatures render the old Makita drill useless, not to mention the difficulties of operating it wearing a space suit glove. Instead, totally new designs were needed to take on the proper precautions for situations that don't exist on Earth. For this particular mission the mechanics need to open panels with 111 tiny screws to access the guts of the instrument. Losing one of these screws in the telescope could be disastrous so a special catch plate was made to catch any floaters (above middle).
The Astronauts will have to go on five spacewalks to give the telescope the proper upgrades including new batteries, gyroscopes and replacing instruments, making the Hubble more powerful than ever. If all goes well, with the help of seven brave astronauts and some special tools, we'll be able to enjoy beautiful photos and learn from the Hubble Space Telescope for five more years.