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Hubble mission especially dangerous

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Hubble mission especially dangerous
This undated Hubble Space Telescope image shows the galaxy Messier 64 (M 64). The galaxy, which is located in the northern constellation Coma Berenices, some 17 million light-years from Earth, was formed by the collision of two galaxies. (UPI Photo/NASA) | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, May 10 (UPI) -- The fifth and final repair expedition on the Hubble Space Telescope will involve five spacewalks and extended time in a debris-filled area, experts say.

The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that NASA is taking special precautions to protect the shuttle crew from the added danger. The mission is to take off Monday.

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The Hubble has been in operation for 19 years, and is suffering from old age, the newspaper reported, noting that the telescope is unsteady, only half its gyroscopes are working and some of its instruments are broken.

"This is going to be an extremely challenging mission," shuttle pilot Greg Johnson was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

The Times said if the mission is successful, the super telescope will have six new gyroscopes, six fully charged batteries, and four repaired or replaced cameras and spectrographs.

The upgraded instruments will allow the telescope to look back to the very beginnings of the universe.

"This will be our first realistic chance of detecting the first stars and galaxies that formed" right after the Big Bang, almost 14 billion years ago, said UCLA astronomer Matthew Malkan.

He said the rebuilt Hubble will be 100 times as powerful as it was when it was put into orbit in April 1990.

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