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Fixing the troubled Hubble

The Canadarm robot has boosted national pride and showcased Canadian technology for more than two decades. In space, the arm emblazoned with a Canada logo and flag first twitched to life aboard a shuttle in 1981. We look back at the arm grabbing errant satellites, helping fix the Hubble telescope and shaking hands with its robotic cousin, Canadarm2.

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The Canadarm played a starring role in today's mission to fix the Hubble space telescope. During long and delicate repairs, Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier used the arm to hold the Hubble perfectly still. The crew of the shuttle Endeavour replaced the Hubble's power-producing solar arrays and fixed both its pointing system and main computer, reporter Beth Dickie says in this clip from CBC Radio's World Report.

The astronauts also added a series of tiny mirrors that will act as eyeglasses for the Hubble's misshapen primary mirror. Astronomers should know in about eight weeks if the repairs worked. They are eagerly awaiting the first in-focus images from the revolutionary telescope. Today's sky-high pit stop ended when the arm released the Hubble over the southern tip of Africa. 
. The Hubble space telescope, named after American astronomer Edwin Hubble, was launched from the shuttle Discovery on April 25, 1990. The Canadarm released it into orbit. The Hubble's mission is to provide scientists with views of the universe not possible using ground-based telescopes. Two months after the launch, scientists realized that the Hubble's main mirror was out of shape on the edges by an amount equal to 1/50 of a human hair - enough to make the pictures fuzzy.

. The servicing mission has been called Canadarm's finest hour. It actually lasted 35 hours and 28 minutes. The repairs worked and, in January 1994, NASA released sharply focused photos to prove it. In 2003, scientists used Hubble data to pinpoint the age of the universe at 13.7 billion years - not the 15 billion years previously thought. The Hubble is credited with revolutionizing astronomy and scientific understanding of the universe.

. Canadarm and the Hubble connected several more times. The arm was used during subsequent servicing missions in 1997, 1999 and 2002. There was a plan for the arm to pluck the Hubble out of space for the final time in 2010. However, some scientists want to extend the telescope's operational life; others want it to remain in space as a testimony to the telescope's achievement.
Medium: Radio
Program: World Report
Broadcast Date: Dec. 10, 1993
Guest(s):
Host: Judy Maddren
Reporter: Beth Dickie
Duration: 1:36

Last updated: May 10, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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