Daily Picture Show

Unique Photos Of NASA's Unique Tools

The Hubble Space Telescope, first launched in 1990, needs a tune-up. So the space shuttle Atlantis launched today on a mission to service Hubble for the last time. To perform this maintenance job, the astronauts are bringing nearly 180 special tools — 116 of which were designed just for this mission. Learn more about these special tools here.

  • The EVA pistol grip tool is a high-torque, low-speed, microprocessor-controlled power tool used by spacewalking astronauts. It greatly reduces hand fatigue while astronauts work in pressurized spacesuits and helps reduce the amount of time it takes to loosen and tighten fasteners.
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    The EVA pistol grip tool is a high-torque, low-speed, microprocessor-controlled power tool used by spacewalking astronauts. It greatly reduces hand fatigue while astronauts work in pressurized spacesuits and helps reduce the amount of time it takes to loosen and tighten fasteners.
    Michael Soluri
  • The washer extraction tool is used by spacewalking astronauts to secure washers that would otherwise float away in space.
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    The washer extraction tool is used by spacewalking astronauts to secure washers that would otherwise float away in space.
    Michael Soluri
  • Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) has been in safe mode since 2004 because of a power supply failure. One of the main repair tasks is to fix the STIS, which separates light and helps with imaging the cosmos. This transportation bag holds the guide studs used to help with the STIS repair task.
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    Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) has been in safe mode since 2004 because of a power supply failure. One of the main repair tasks is to fix the STIS, which separates light and helps with imaging the cosmos. This transportation bag holds the guide studs used to help with the STIS repair task.
    Michael Soluri
  • The Space Transportation System Portable Foot Restraint has a very fancy name but a simple, albeit important, function.  It is essentially a boot plate that holds the spacewalking astronauts in one place.
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    The Space Transportation System Portable Foot Restraint has a very fancy name but a simple, albeit important, function. It is essentially a boot plate that holds the spacewalking astronauts in one place.
    Michael Soluri
  • This is a high-speed, low-torque power tool designed to help astronauts quickly remove the large number of screws during the repair tasks.
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    This is a high-speed, low-torque power tool designed to help astronauts quickly remove the large number of screws during the repair tasks.
    Michael Soluri
  • The EVA mini-workstation mounts to the front chest of an astronaut's spacesuit and holds equipment needed during spacewalks.
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    The EVA mini-workstation mounts to the front chest of an astronaut's spacesuit and holds equipment needed during spacewalks.
    Michael Soluri
  • In order to access the failed STIS electronics card, astronauts must remove 111 screws, which could simply float away during the task. So the STIS fastener capture plate fits over the electronics cavity cover plate and catches each screw as it's removed.
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    In order to access the failed STIS electronics card, astronauts must remove 111 screws, which could simply float away during the task. So the STIS fastener capture plate fits over the electronics cavity cover plate and catches each screw as it's removed.
    Michael Soluri
  • Members of the last shuttle crew to service the Hubble Space Telescope: (From left) Michael Good, Mike Massimino, Megan McArthur, Scott Altman (commander), Greg Johnson, Andrew Feustel and John Grunsfeld.
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    Members of the last shuttle crew to service the Hubble Space Telescope: (From left) Michael Good, Mike Massimino, Megan McArthur, Scott Altman (commander), Greg Johnson, Andrew Feustel and John Grunsfeld.
    Michael Soluri
  • The spacewalkers of the last service mission (from left): John Grunsfeld, Andrew Feustel, Col. Michael Good and Michael Massimino.
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    The spacewalkers of the last service mission (from left): John Grunsfeld, Andrew Feustel, Col. Michael Good and Michael Massimino.
    NASA/Michael Soluri
  • The shuttle launch pads are located in a national wildlife refuge, which requires creative means to keep birds from nesting in — and picking at — the shuttle. This is one of several balloons with eyes that shift with the direction of the wind, so as to divert birds.
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    The shuttle launch pads are located in a national wildlife refuge, which requires creative means to keep birds from nesting in — and picking at — the shuttle. This is one of several balloons with eyes that shift with the direction of the wind, so as to divert birds.
    NASA/Michael Soluri
  • Atlantis rests on Pad A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, ready for launch.
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    Atlantis rests on Pad A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, ready for launch.
    NASA/Michael Soluri
  • The Hubble Space Telescope hovers at the boundary of Earth and space in this picture, taken after Hubble's second servicing mission in 1997.
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    The Hubble Space Telescope hovers at the boundary of Earth and space in this picture, taken after Hubble's second servicing mission in 1997.
    NASA

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Michael Soluri was originally hired by Discover magazine to photograph these one-of-a-kind tools. The result: unexpectedly beautiful still lifes. Because he was documenting rare objects, he wanted to use rare film. With a Hasselblad camera and retired Kodak film, he set up a dazzling portrait studio to give these tools the effect of floating in white space.

Hubble has been responsible for some of the most stunning photographs of the cosmos. Without this mission, these astronauts and these tools, Hubble couldn't continue to do its job. It's a big day, and Soluri has effectively captured the beauty of this task. Learn more about the mission on NASA's site. And check out NPR's story.

Also worth checking out:
Story: Astronauts To Give Hubble One Last Hug
Multimedia: Scientists discuss their favorite Hubble images
More NASA photos

By Claire O'Neill

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