Science News

Back-up Hubble mission shuttle moved to launch pad

The space shuttle Endeavour sits on the runway after landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida March 26, 2008. REUTERS/Stephane Corvaja/ESA/Handout

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - A space shuttle that would be launched to rescue a stranded Hubble Space Telescope servicing crew in case of an emergency was rolled out to a spare launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center on Friday.

The space shuttle Endeavour, which is scheduled for an International Space Station construction mission in November, will be readied as a backup throughout next month’s Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission by its sister ship Atlantis.

NASA ordered the backup to reduce some of the risks with flying the Hubble mission, which takes place too far from the space station for the outpost to serve as a temporary shelter for Atlantis’ crew in case of an emergency.

Atlantis remains scheduled for liftoff on October 10, but that date is likely to slip due to the shutdown of the Johnson Space Center in Houston for Hurricane Ike and delays in packing new equipment for the Hubble telescope aboard Atlantis.

The U.S. space agency implemented rescue plans for every shuttle flight after the 2003 Columbia accident, which killed seven astronauts.

That shuttle was damaged during launch and broke apart during its return through Earth’s atmosphere for landing. Shuttle crews now inspect their ships for damage during flight.

The Houston center, home to NASA’s Mission Control and the prime training ground for astronauts and flight controllers, was closed during flooding and widespread power outages caused by Ike and will not reopen until Monday.

Atlantis will be carrying two new science instruments for Hubble, replacement batteries, and gyroscopes and repair kits to fix two of its cameras.

Editing by Michael Christie