Spacewalkers use brute force for Hubble repair

Spacewalkers' specially designed tools couldn't dislodge a balky bolt interfering with repairs at the Hubble Space Telescope. So they took an approach more familiar to people puttering around down on Earth: 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 an 1.25-inch (3.2-centimeter) long 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 put spacewalkers so far behind schedule that they had to abandon the second part of their spacewalk: replacing some worn insulation on the telescope.

Nasa, which prides itself on being prepared, had not anticipated a bolt problem while removing the 1.5-foot (0.5-meter) long hand rail, said lead flight controller Tony Ceccacci.

Astronomers, whose nerves were tried by the spacewalk, were still happy because it was the second straight resurrection of a much-used but dead scientific device.

"The science capabilities we've been given today are fabulous," Jennifer Wiseman, Nasa's chief of stellar astrophysics said at a late Sunday news conference. "It's almost like starting with a brand-new observatory."

The marathon spacewalk by Massimino and Michael Good took so long — just more than eight hours — that it was the sixth longest U.S. spacewalk and a few minutes longer than the one Friday.

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

At Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, engineers twice tested that pull on a mock-up before Massimino was told to use his muscles.

"You hope you don't get to the point where you just close your eyes and pull and hope nothing (bad) happens," said James Cooper, the Goddard mechanical systems manager for the repair mission. "But we had run out of other options."

Astronauts were careful to tape pieces so they wouldn't fly away and become potential missiles.

"This is like tying branches together in Boy Scouts," Good said.

Since Atlantis was out of video contact 350 miles (563 kilometers) above Earth, controllers in Houston could only listen as Massimino took a breath and pulled.

After a second of silence, Massimino calmly said: "disposal bag, please."

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 test results show the spectrograph, disabled by a power failure five years ago, was brought back to life. When further tests started, a glitch popped up, but Nasa officials were confident the device would be fine.

Three of the four Hubble spacewalks so far have been delayed by niggling problems, like stubborn bolts and objects that wouldn't fit. A fifth and final spacewalk is set for Monday.

Massimino's run of bad luck continued. While trying to install a special plate to remove 111 tiny screws that held the instrument cover 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 Massimino replaced the internal electronics power supply card in the spectrograph, it was just about the originally scheduled time for the end of the spacewalk. And more than 90 minutes of clean-up and close-out work remained.

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

All the work may not get done Monday, but at least part will be attempted, Mission Control said.

"We're very proud of you," Atlantis astronaut John Grunsfeld told the weary spacewalkers.

Grunsfeld and Andrew Feustel will not only pick up some of their work Monday, but they will be the last people to touch the 19-year-old observatory.

On Tuesday, Atlantis will release Hubble, which Nasa hopes will keep operating for another five to 10 years, before it is steered to a watery grave.

On Saturday, two other astronauts revived Hubble's survey camera. Early Sunday, Mission Control told the crew two of the three science channels on the repaired camera were working again.

When Nasa planned this mission, officials said it would be a success if either of the two dead instruments could be revived. With Saturday's camera remedy, fixing the spectrograph is a bonus.

The light-separating spectrograph has helped find black holes and examine the atmosphere of planets outside our solar system.

Suggested Topics
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform