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Lift-off for space shuttle Atlantis!

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Photo: NASA Television

The space shuttle Atlantis roared off the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida today at 2:01 p.m. EDT. On board Atlantis, a crew of seven astronauts gearing up to service NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. During the 11-day mission and five spacewalks, the astronauts will install two new instruments, repair two others that are inactive, and do the kind of maintenance work which will keep the giant telescope functioning to at least 2014. This is the final shuttle mission to service, repair, and upgrade Hubble.

On April 24, 1990, space shuttle Discovery launched Hubble into orbit around Earth. Over the years, the powerful telescope has floated about our atmosphere beaming back hundreds of thousands of images. That incredible data has helped scientists determine such things as the universe is 13.7 billion years old. Also, Hubble has provided tons of important information about the birth of planets, black holes, and the existence of black energy —a mysterious force, which accelerates the expansion of the universe.

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