14 May 2009

Astronauts begin Hubble telescope overhaul

7:13 am on 14 May 2009

Astronauts have begun an overhaul of the Hubble space telescope.

The shuttle Atlantis has plucked the observatory from orbit above Australia.

Astronauts now plan five consecutive days of spacewalks to revamp the telescope.

Three of the telescope's five science instruments are broken and it is running on 19-year-old batteries that can hold only half a charge.

A second shuttle is ready for liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in case the Atlantis astronauts need another ride home.

Hubble was launched in 1990 and has provided evidence of how planets are formed and contributed to the realisation that the universe is expanding at an increasingly faster rate.