On April 24, 1990, the Discovery shuttle launched the Hubble Space Telescope
into orbit around Earth, where it's been for 20 years. This spring, NASA has been rolling out more pretty
and even an IMAX movie
in its honor
. The Hubble has contributed to hundreds of studies
about our universe.
As we celebrate its legacy, let's reflect on a bit on its past and future.
The Hubble was initially set to launch in October 1986, but the Challenger tragedy
grounded all space missions indefinitely. When it was finally launched in spring 1990, there was a flaw in the mirror
, and the Hubble sent back blurry images
. Though the space telescope was built with periodic upgrades and repairs, the mistakes, a result of poor management and slightly less-than-pristine construction measurements and conditions at NASA and the mirror's producer
, brought new urgency to these scheduled missions. There have been five: Sts-61
The fifth servicing mission in May 2009 was also its last
. The Hubble was originally meant to last 15 years, but repairs and replacements will let it go on to collect and record data until 2014. It will re-enter Earth sometime between 2019 and 2032.
Its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope
, will launch in 2014, and will continue where Hubble left off. It is part of NASA's Origins Program
, which aims to discover the formation of galaxies and stars. However, because it will be orbiting 1 million miles from Earth and won't enjoy the benefit of schedule service repairs as Hubble did, NASA has only one chance to get it right (mechanically speaking)
You want to know how it works?
The Hubble, of course, is named after Edwin Hubble
. But his right-hand man was Milt Humason
, a self-educated person who started as a mule driver during the construction of the Mt. Wilson observatory (where the two worked). Humason then was promoted to janitor, then night assistant there. Humason helped Hubble calculate the Hubble (redshift) velocity