Today on Discovery Enterprise we join the Astronomical Community in celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the launching of the most amazing scientific instrument ever conceived – The Hubble Space Telescope.
Hubble was launched aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on April 24th, 1990. Initially when the telescope achieved first light it was immediately obvious that there was a serious problem with the optics and that the primary mirror had been ground to the wrong shape. The design of the Hubble Space telescope had always incorporated servicing missions, and astronomers immediately began to seek potential solutions to the problem that could be applied at the first servicing mission, scheduled for 1993.
In today’s triple video feature we explore the amazing cosmic vista revealed to us by Hubble over the past twenty years and look at two astonishing and intrepid servicing missions that saved this instrument from utter failure and extended the life of this tool of discovery. The first was the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s mission in December. 1993 which involved the installation of the corrective optics to fix a very near sighted telescope and the final mission by Space Shuttle Atlantis in May, 2009 to extend the life of the mission to the year 2014.
Hubble is the only telescope ever designed to be serviced in space by astronauts. Four servicing missions were performed from 1993–2002, but the fifth was canceled on safety grounds following the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. However, after spirited public discussion, NASA administrator Mike Griffin approved one final servicing mission, completed in 2009. The telescope is now expected to function until at least 2014, when its ‘successor’, the infrared James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), is due to be launched.
Hubble Space Telescope – Twenty Years of Discovery
BBC Horizon – Fixing Hubbles Vision
NOVA – Hubble’s Amazing Rescue