Happy Birthday Hubble

Today is the 19th birthday of the Hubble Telescope, which was launched into a high orbit on this day in 1990 by Space Shuttle Discovery. The Satellite has remained one of the most important installations to have been launched. The images that have been taken have helped to vastly increase our knowledge of the surrounding universe, and take some of the most beautiful sights from all over.

The Hubble Space Telescope was an important project for NASA, which was still reeling from the destruction of the Challenger orbiter just four years earlier after faulty parts and negligence contributed to the deaths of the crew members. NASA’s public image was tarnished from the accident, and hopes were riding high on the successes of Hubble. The launch, STS-031, brought the Hubble 380 miles up, the second highest orbit, and twice that of the Shuttle’s normal range.

After it’s deployment on April 25th, scientists found that the images that they recieved weren’t as sharp as they’d thought. The primary lense in the telescope was incorrectly built, 2.3 micrometers out of the correct shape. NASA’s image was once again tarnished, and scientists worked quickly to devise a solution. This was aided by the design of the Hubble, which was the only satellite that could be serviced in orbit. The first of four servicing missions brought up a sort of add-on that allowed for Hubble’s vision to be corrected. The mission was an overwhelming success (except that the astronauts couldn’t get one of the doors closed, and had to ratchet it shut). Five spacewalks were performed, and with the new images from the telescope, the public image of the agency rebounded. Three additional Servicing Missions were conducted, one in 1997, 1999 and 2002, each of which upgraded equipment or repaired faulty parts.

The last mission is scheduled later next month, STS-125, which will install a new camera and spectrograph and repair several other instruments that have failed. Following this mission, the Telescope will continue its life through to 2013, and it will be replaced by the James Webb Space Telescope at that time.

Hubble’s website. Follow it on twitter.

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