European Space Agency astronauts Claude Nicollier and Jean-Francois Clervoy will be part of a team of experienced astronauts that will be launched on the Space Shuttle in October of this year on an earlier than planned mission to service the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. Although Hubble is operating normally and continuing to conduct its scientific observations, its pointing system has begun to fail.
Nicollier and three NASA astronauts, who had already been training for a Hubble servicing mission planned for June 2000, have been reassigned to this earlier mission (STS-103). Jean-Francois Clervoy and two other NASA astronauts will complete the STS-103 crew.
The repairs and maintenance of the telescope will require many hours spent working outside the Shuttle and will make extensive use of the Shuttle's robotic arm Nicollier, of Swiss nationality and making his fourth flight, will be part of the team that will perform the "spacewalks". An astronomer by education, he took part in the first Hubble servicing mission (STS-61) in 1993, controlling the Shuttle's robotic arm while astronauts on the other end of the arm performed the delicate repairs to the telescope. He also served on STS-46 in 1992 using the robotic arm to deploy ESA's Eureca retrievable spacecraft from the Shuttle, and on STS-75 with the Italian Tethered Satellite System in 1996. Nicollier is currently the chief of the robotics branch in NASA's astronaut office and ESA's lead astronaut in Houston.
Jean-Francois Clervoy, of French nationality and making his third flight, will have the lead role in the operation of the robotic arm for this mission. He previously served on STS-66 in 1994 using the robotic arm to deploy and later retrieve the German CRISTA-SPAS atmospheric research satellite, and on STS-84 in 1997, a Shuttle mission to the Russian Mir space station. The other STS-103 crewmembers are: Commander Curtis Brown, pilot Scott Kelly, and mission specialists Steven Smith, Michael Foale and John Grunsfeld.
During the flight, the astronauts will replace Hubble's failing pointing system, which allows the telescope to aim at stars, planets and other targets, and install other equipment that will be ready for launch at that time. A second mission to complete the previously-scheduled Hubble refurbishment work is foreseen at a later date. The crew for that mission has not yet been assigned.
The Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990, is one of the most powerful optical telescopes available to astronomers today, producing images and spectral observations at the forefront of astronomy. ESA contributed a 15 share to the development of Hubble and European astronomers receive in return a guaranteed 15 share of observing time (and 20 on average in practice).
For more information, see the following web pages:
* Biographies of ESA astronauts: http://www.estec.esa.int/spaceflight/astronaut
* Biographies of NASA astronauts: http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios
* Hubble servicing missions: http://station.nasa.gov/shuttle/future/sts-103.html
* Hubble Space Telescope: http://sci.esa.int/hubble
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