Space History Today: Fourth Hubble Servicing Mission

Ten years ago today — March 1, 2002 — the Space Shuttle Columbia launched from the Kennedy Space Center on the fourth servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.

(The Hubble Space Telescope in the shuttle cargo bay for repairs and upgrades, with a background of sunrise “airglow” on Earth’s horizon. NASA image.)

Astronauts Scott D. Altman, Duane G. Carey, John M. Grunsfeld, Nancy J. Currie, James H. Newman, Richard M. Linnehan, and Michael J. Massimino made up the crew of STS-109, and accomplished five spacewalks on this important mission.

The crew

  • removed and replaced the telescope’s two solar arrays with new, higher-efficiency arrays
  • installed a new Reaction Wheel Assembly
  • replaced the Power Control Unit
  • replaced Hubble’s Faint Object Camera with the Advanced Camera for Surveys
  • installed the Electronic Support Module and a cryocooler and Cooling System Radiator for an experimental cooling system for the Near-Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer

All of us who have enjoyed Hubble’s images and discoveries through the years can appreciate the effort to maintain and improve it over its operational life. Well done!


For a little bonus space history, on the same day that Columbia launched, the European Space Agency launched ENVISAT-1 on an Ariane-5 rocket out of Kourou. At 8.1 tonnes (nearly 18,000 lb), ENVISAT-1 was “reported to be the most massive and expensive of the European satellites.” It carried ten instruments for remote sensing of terrestrial environmental conditions such as global warming and desertification.

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