Fascinating Photos Take You Behind the Scenes of Hubble

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In 1929, Edwin Hubble used the telescope at the Mount Wilson Observatory outside of Los Angeles to prove that the universe is expanding. The space telescope bearing his name launched into Earth orbit aboard the shuttle Discovery 51 years later on April 24th, 1990. Michael Soluri

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Between 1993 and 2009, crews have rocketed up to service and upgrade the Hubble five times. This image was made just after the crew of the Atlantis released it into its orbit some 360 miles above water-world Earth in 2009. Michael Soluri

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To work in the vacuum of space, astronauts need to practice in spacesuits in water. Here, Andrew Feustel is training in the largest deep-water pool in the world at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston. Michael Soluri

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K. Megan McArthur was a rookie on the fifth and final mission to service Hubble in 2009. As both the robotic arm operator and the ascent and entry flight engineer, she is arguably the last human to have “touched” the scope when she released it from the cargo bay of the Atlantis. Michael Soluri

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Seated behind Commander Scott Altman and Pilot Greg Johnson, McArthur along with Michael Massimino practice a landing in the shuttle orbiter simulator at NASA’s Johnson Spaceflight Center. Michael Soluri

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The launching of rockets into space takes place in a high security, industrial scale at the Kennedy Space Center. Here, a security guard sits at the entrance to the shuttle launch pad a few weeks before the May 2009 launch. Michael Soluri

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The instruments and tools destined for the Hubble are prepared here in the dust-free high bay of the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. NASA’s probes to Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto have also been readied for their journey under these high-pressure sodium lights. Michael Soluri

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A technician prepares to stow the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph Fastener Capture Plate. The STiS FCP was used by Mike Massimino to remove 111 fasteners and washers into 111 self-contained boxes so they wouldn’t float off into the telescope. Michael Soluri

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April 2009: the astronaut crew and senior Hubble engineers during a restricted last review and familiarization session in the high bay of the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Kennedy Space Center. A few days later the hardware is transported to the cargo bay of Atlantis. Michael Soluri

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Here, four "space-walking" astronauts and their mission trainers review one of the tool boxes they will be accessing in the cargo bay of the Atlantis in just a few weeks. Michael Soluri

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The tools the astronauts use look like one-of-a-kind sculptures. Soluri photographed them on black & white film on a light table in the high-security high bay at the Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland. This is the Mini Power Drill, specifically designed for spacewalks at the Hubble. Michael Soluri

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This Advance Camera for Survey Indexing Card Extractor was designed so that John Grunsfeld, wearing pressurized gloves, could remove four failed circuit boards from the Advance Camera for Surveys electrical system, the second most important high-resolution camera system aboard the Hubble. Michael Soluri

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Handrails are ubiquitous on spacecraft like the ISS and the Hubble. This handrail was recovered from the Hubble, and due to one stripped bolt, astronaut Mike Massimino had to forcibly pull it off in order to place the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph Fastener Capture Plate over an access panel to the failed instrument. Michael Soluri

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Soluri actually coached some of the crew to help them take more visual photographs in space. Responding to the shiny metallic surface of the Hubble, John Grunsfeld made this self portrait of himself, Earth, and the space shuttle Atlantis. Michael Soluri

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This image was created in 2010 with Hubble's new wide field camera 3; it's two galaxies interacting with each other 340 million light years from Earth. Michael Soluri

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"Crawling around inside the engine compartment of the Atlantis was like being inside of a fine jeweled watch," says Soluri. Here, James Delie, a space shuttle rocket technician, crouches by the main fuel line to the shuttle’s three engines before the May 2009 launch. Michael Soluri

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During the last 20 years of the shuttle program, Ravi Margasahayam was a flame trench/blast shield thermal and acoustic launch pad engineer. He’s standing on the blast shield in the Apollo-era flame trench of shuttle launch pad 39A. Michael Soluri

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For most of the shuttle program Rene Arriens, an advanced systems shuttle technician, helped get the astronaut crews into their spaceships from the "white room" cantilevered out over the launch pad. Rene’s takeaway after 20 years of high pressure countdowns: "Give your people time to think." Michael Soluri

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"Cave art" in the flame trench under the shuttle launch pad. The image reveals the cumulative burn signature from the ignition of the three main engines of the space shuttle. Michael Soluri

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This “Kid Pic” mural was drawn by the children of the crew of the fifth and final servicing mission to the Hubble. Begun as a tradition after the Challenger disaster, the kids spend several hours drawing while waiting for the launch of their astronaut parent. Michael Soluri

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On the ground floor of the cathedral like Vertical Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center is the signature wall bearing some 7,350 signatures from essentially the entire space shuttle labor force between 1981 and 2011. Michael Soluri

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2:01 PM, May 11, 2009: The Atlantis launches. As Soluri puts it "there is nothing emotionally comparable to seeing and feeling the launch of a rocket more than three miles away, knowing that seven of your friends are buckled in the nose of that machine ascending into space." Michael Soluri

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