GREENBELT, Md. – Astronauts selected for the next space shuttle servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope are at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., this week for their first formal crew orientation.

Goddard engineers and managers are briefing the crew about Hubble operations, facilities and hardware and discussing the mission’s five scheduled spacewalks. Astronauts will install two new science instruments and perform upgrades to the observatory.

“While Johnson Space Center provides underwater training for the astronauts in its Neutral Buoyancy Lab, Goddard offers them hands-on experience using high fidelity mock-ups of Hubble and the specialty tools required for the tasks that lie ahead,” said Preston Burch, associate director and program manager for Hubble at Goddard. “Together, we help ensure a flawless servicing mission.”

During their visit, astronauts will split their time between classroom activities and exercises inside Goddard’s Class 10,000 cleanroom, which houses exact replicas of Hubble’s electrical and equipment bays and actual flight hardware. This will be the first space flight for three of the seven astronauts, and this introduction will be their first look at the tools and techniques they will be mastering.

Veteran astronaut Scott Altman will command the final shuttle mission to Hubble. Navy Reserve Capt. Gregory C. Johnson will serve as pilot. The mission specialists are veteran spacewalkers John Grunsfeld and Mike Massimino and first-time space fliers Andrew Feustel, Air Force Col. Michael Good and flight engineer and robotic arm operator Megan McArthur.

The two new instruments being delivered to Hubble are the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) and Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). The COS is the most sensitive ultraviolet spectrograph ever flown on Hubble. The instrument will probe the large-scale structure of the universe, which is traced by the distribution of galaxies and intergalactic gas observed by Hubble. It also will explore the nature and distribution of the mysterious dark matter that sculpts that structure. Dark matter is an invisible form of matter whose total mass in the universe is more than five times that of “normal” matter (i.e., gas, dust, stars, etc.) and which only can be studied by observing its influence on the distribution of normal matter in our universe.

WFC3 is a new camera sensitive across a wide range of wavelengths, including infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light. The camera will undertake a broad range of studies. It will examine the planets in our solar system, nearby galaxies with stories to tell about the formation of their stars, and early and distant galaxies beyond Hubble’s current reach.

Other planned work on the mission includes installation of a refurbished Fine Guidance Sensor that replaces one degrading unit of the three already onboard. The sensors control the telescope’s pointing system. An attempt also will be made to repair the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph. Installed in 1997, the instrument stopped working in 2004. The instrument is used for high resolution studies in visible and ultraviolet light of both nearby star systems and distant galaxies, providing information about the motions and chemical makeup of stars, planetary atmospheres, and other galaxies.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. The Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, conducts Hubble science operations. The Institute is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., Washington.

For more about upcoming space shuttle missions, visit: