Watch The Hubble Telescope Repairs Live Online

On Monday, the space shuttle Atlantis took off on a mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. Atlantis’ trip will include five spacewalks that NASA is streaming live on their web site.

Today’s footage showed astronauts John Grunsfeld and Drew Feustel installing a new data handling unit and a soft capture mechanism that will allow other vehicles to attach to the telescope. The astronauts also began work to place three latch-over-center kits on the Hubble that will allow for easier use of the telescope doors during future spacewalk repairs. Currently, the astronauts are reboarding Atlantis.

Repairing the Hubble requires spacewalks at an extremely high orbit in an area filled with space junk. For the first time, NASA has placed another shuttle on standby to make a rescue if something goes wrong. Following the 2003 explosion of the Columbia space shuttle, NASA nixed the possibility of a Hubble repair mission due to the high risks involved. That decision was reversed after pressure from the scientific community.

These repairs will keep the Hubble telescope running until 2014. Hubble was launched in 1990. There have been four previous servicing missions to the telescope.

Watching the live video footage isn’t the only way you can follow the Atlantis mission online. Astronaut Mike Massimino is maintaining a Twitter page during the mission. On Tuesday afternoon he sent the first Tweet from space: “Launch was awesome!! I am feeling great, working hard, & enjoying the magnificent views, the adventure of a lifetime has begun!” Since then, Massimo has posted two other Space tweets. We guess the only question that remains is who will receive the first @reply from outside of Eath’s atmosphere.