Washington, May 12 (ANI): NASA's space shuttle Atlantis, with its seven-member crew, has launched on the final Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission.
Atlantis' 11-day mission will include five spacewalks to refurbish Hubble with state-of-the-art science instruments designed to improve the telescope's discovery capabilities by up to 70 times while extending its lifetime through at least 2014.
Shortly before liftoff, Commander Scott Altman thanked the teams that helped make the launch possible.
"At last our launch has come along," said Altman. "Getting to this point has been challenging, but the whole team, everyone, has pulled together to take us into space," he added.
Altman is joined on STS-125 by Pilot Gregory C. Johnson and Mission Specialists Megan McArthur, John Grunsfeld, Mike Massimino, Andrew Feustel and Michael Good.
McArthur will serve as the flight engineer and lead for robotic arm operations while the remaining mission specialists pair up for the hands-on spacewalk work after Hubble is captured and secured in the payload bay.
Altman, Grunsfeld and Massimino are space shuttle and Hubble mission veterans. Johnson, Feustel and Good are first-time space fliers.
The STS-125 mission is the 126th shuttle flight, the 30th for Atlantis and the second of five planned in 2009.
Hubble was delivered to space on April 24, 1990, on the STS-31 mission.
STS-125 is referred to as Servicing Mission 4, although it is technically the fifth servicing flight to the telescope.
"Hubble has a long history of providing outstanding science and beautiful pictures," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.
"If the servicing mission is successful, it will give us a telescope that will continue to astound both scientists and the public for many years to come," he added. (ANI)