The Hubble Space Telescope, arguably the jewel in the crown of NASA’s science missions, was launched 29 years ago. It has been providing scientists and the public with a steady stream of previously unimagined insights about the cosmos — plus those jaw-dropping, very high-resolution images like the one above — pretty much ever since.
It has also provided the best example to date of what humans can do in space with its five repair and upgrade missions. It did indeed launch to great skepticism, especially after a near fatal flaw was found in its key mirror. It was also considered over budget at launch, way behind schedule and questionable scientifically and had to be fixed in orbit 353 miles into space.
But almost three decades into its mission now — and with decades more service likely — it clearly shows what an exceedingly ambitious project can deliver and the level of excellence that NASA, its European Space Agency partner and space scientists and engineers can achieve. Talk about soft power.
This is important to remember as the agency’s 40-year-old Great Observatories program –that the Hubble Telescope is a part of –is under considerable threat.
The mission that was supposed to fly in the 2010s, the James Webb Space Telescope, is also way over budget, way behind schedule, and now described as a financial threat to other NASA missions. … Read more