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Shuttle Astronauts to Enhance Hubble Telescope - 2002-03-01

The U.S. space shuttle "Columbia" has lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida on an 11-day mission to enhance the Hubble Space Telescope's view of the universe.

Columbia is carrying a crew of seven and a suite of equipment to give new life to Hubble and extend its view far deeper into the cosmos.

Once Columbia's robot arm grabs the observatory from orbit on Sunday, two alternating pairs of astronauts face a challenging list of tasks to be accomplished during five consecutive spacewalks beginning Monday.

Their main job is to install an advanced camera that will boost Hubble's visual power 10 times, in essence letting it detect fainter light arriving from further in the past. Astronomers hope to see the first light of star formation believed to have occurred within one-billion years of the birth of the universe.

The shuttle team will also install a new gyroscope to aim Hubble, a new pair of solar power arrays, a box to distribute that power, and a new cooling system to revive a dormant infrared camera whose refrigeration failed four years ago.