Space Shuttle Discovery launched into orbit 30 years in the past at the moment with the Hubble Area Telescope in its payload bay. Charlie Bolden, who served as the pilot for the STS-31 shuttle mission, remembers the five-day spaceflight prefer it was yesterday. “What stands out most vividly in my thoughts is all issues that did not go proper,” Bolden recalled in an interview.
It is true. Though astronomers wouldn’t uncover that the Hubble Space Telescope had a major problem with its mirror till a couple of weeks after Discovery landed, the deployment mission was not without difficulties itself. The crew got here inside minutes of embarking on an emergency spacewalk and even had contingency plans to carry Hubble again to Earth if wanted.
The mission was novel from the start, with a deliberate orbit at 612km above the planet’s floor requiring the automobile to fly increased than any shuttle mission up to now. Telescope deployment got here a day after the shuttle reached orbit and concerned a sophisticated sequence of occasions. After disconnecting the telescope from the shuttle’s energy provide, astronauts would use a robotic arm to maneuver the instrument from the shuttle’s payload pay, open its solar arrays, and at last launch the telescope.
When ground controllers commanded the telescope to start unfurling its two solar arrays, one of many arrays didn’t achieve this correctly. Minutes changed into hours as engineers on the bottom troubleshot the issue. Reeves had a contingency plan for this, in fact. It entailed sending astronauts Bruce McCandless and Kathryn Sullivan outdoors the shuttle to manually deploy the arrays.
Just a few hours into the ordeal, with the Hubble batteries draining and the shuttle starting to rotate without perspective management, Reeves directed McCandless and Sullivan to swimsuit up and entered the airlock. They depressurized down from 14.7psi all the way down to 5psi and carried out their spacesuit leak checks—the ultimate step earlier than totally depressurizing the airlock, opening the hatch, and going out into space.