Hubble has revolutionized Astronomy and inspired countless people with its amazing views of our universe. In my opinion it's one of the finest pieces of hardware flown on a Space Shuttle.
STS-31 was launched on April the 24th 1990 from Launchpad 39A out of Florida. The crew of five was lead by Loren J. Shriver. Pilot on the Mission was none other then todays NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden. The Mission took a little bit over 5 days to complete and included, beside the primary objective of getting Hubble into Orbit, several biomedical experiments on the middeck of Discovery.
So without further delays lets get this Mission going!
We arrived very early at the Launchpad and there was still some time to go till sunrise:
After configuring all the systems for the launch, we checked out the launch profile one last time to make sure we were headed where we were supposed to. I don't think the Hubble people would be happy if we launched the telescope into the ground.
With only 9 minutes to go the crew access arm was retracted and we were truly on our own now.
And then after a very smooth countdown the main engines lit up, followed by the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB), which gave us enough thrust to roar to the sky.
About 2 minutes later the SRBs had done their job and it was time to seperate them from the stack. The boosters will be picked upped by ships in the Atlantic in a few days.
We continued our climb into orbit for the next 6 minutes. Time to check our accent profile. Here we had only 1 minute left till Main Engine Cutoff (MECO).
After MECO we got rid of our big fuel tank, which fell back to earth and burned up in the Atmosphere.
After making sure we reached a safe orbit, it was time to convert our rocket ship into a space ship. This included the opening of the payload bay doors and radiators to ensure good cooling of the Shuttle for the duration of the Mission.
Here is a view from inside watching over the door opening.
And while we were waiting i had a good look at the flight deck cockpit for a second.
After we deployed and configured out thermal systems, we could finally have a good look at Hubble inside our payload bay.
Now was the time to fulfill the reason why we launched in the first place and get ready to deploy the Space Telescope. We activated the robotic arm of the shuttle and manouvered it to one of the grapple points on the telescope.
Once we confirmed that we safely grappled Hubble, we lifted it out of the payload bay to a hover position high above.
The ground now peformed the first checkouts of the hardware and sent commands to deploy the solar arrays.
After everything checked out fine, it was time to let go of Mister Hubble and depart the scene.
During the next few days the Shuttle stayed in the vicinity of Hubble, so that in case there is a problem with the telescope the Astronauts could react and fix it. This was also the time the Crew completed the secondary science missions on the middeck. Here is a view out to the now empty payload bay.
Since everything went fine with Hubble and its now ready for amazing discoverys (of course we know that the mirror was flawed and that the first repair mission had to follow only 3 years after the deployment), it was now time for us to come home.
An important part of the homecoming is to turn the space ship into an airplane. So the first thing we did was to close the payload bay doors again, since flying through the atmosphere with these big things open is no fun at all.
A view again from the inside with the now nearly closed payload bay.
We next configured the onboard computers to do the Deorbit Burn. As you can see we have a minute to go till the burn and are using both Orbital Manouvering System (OMS)engines for the burn.
After the minute passed our OMS Engine lit up to slow down the Shuttle just enough so that it fell back into the Atmosphere.
Commander and Pilot were carefully watching over the burn and reentry.
Not long after we got a taste of the violent rentry and the shuttle was engulfed in a huge ball of plasma.
As we head into the sunrise our flight control surfaces became effective, since the air around the Shuttle was now thick enough.
After we passed the heading alignment cirle (HAC) we headed in for the landing at the Edwards Airforce BAse in California, since the weather in Florida was rather poor. As you can see my landing wasn't perfect on centerline, but a bit off to the right. I guess thats why NASA never allowed me to fly the shuttle
We used the new carbon brakes on the Shuttle to slow down, as the Space Shuttle Programm had no drag chute at that point, to come to a wheel stop on the runway.
That's it for STS-31. And since you were so patience reading this AAR i give you the mission presentation narrated by the crew. Enjoy: