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Atlantis Hubble mission set for 12 May

Final servicing gig

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NASA has announced that the space shuttle Atlantis's STS-125 mission to the Hubble Space Telescope will finally blast off on 12 May next year.

This final servicing jaunt to the venerable eye in the sky was delayed by the failure back in September of Hubble's operational data handling unit. NASA booted up a redundant back-up, but knocked back Atlantis's launch while it put together a spare for installation on STS-125.

The 11-day mission will feature five spacewalks during which crew will fit a new Wide Field Camera 3 and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph - the latter designed to "observe the light put out by extremely faint, far-away quasars and see how that light changes as it passes through the intervening gas between distant galaxies".

In command will be Scott Altman, joined by pilot Gregory C. Johnson, mission specialists and veteran spacewalkers John Grunsfeld and Mike Massimino, and "first-time space fliers" Andrew Feustel, Michael Good and Megan McArthur.

The other shuttle missions slated for the first half of 2009 are Discovery's STS-119 to the International Space Station (12 Feb), bearing solar arrays for the outpost, and STS-127 (15 May), during which Endeavour will deliver further modules for Japan's Kibo lab. NASA has the full launch manifest here. ®

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