Hubble Space Telescope, 30 Years and Still Sensational!

The beginning of the Hubble Space Telescope

On this day of April 24, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched during the STS-31 mission by the Space Shuttle Discovery. Hubble injection occurred at a 380-mile orbit to avoid as much as possible the Earth’s atmosphere.

With its 24,000-pound, Hubble had five science instruments on-board:

  • Wide Field/Planetary Camera (WF/PC)
  • Faint Object Camera (FOC)
  • Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph (GHRS)
  • Faint Object Spectrograph (FOS)
  • High-Speed Photometer (HSP)

On May 20, 1990, the first light images were not as expected and stars were blurry. After long investigations, all the fingers pointed out to the primary mirror that had residual spherical aberration. After analyzing the interferograms and null corrector, the problem was determined to be caused by an incorrect conic constant. The primary mirror’s as-built conic constant was −1.01390 compared to specified value of −1.00230. Small difference, but big problems! Optical engineering is a discipline that requires to be detail-oriented with a mind focused on the precision.

The Amazing Repair

In December 1993, the first servicing mission accomplished the impossible. The STS-61 mission astronauts flew aboard Endeavour to repair Hubble successfully! They replaced manually the High Speed Photometer with the COSTAR corrective optics. This space mission was a great engineering performance that allowed Hubble recovering his big eye.

After that repair, Hubble had four more servicing missions, the last one occurred in May 2009 when an Atlantis space shuttle brought a crew of seven astronauts to install two new instruments, the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), and replace the fine guidance system by the Soft Capture and Rendezvous System.

Success

Since then, beauty, science, and discoveries have been au rendez-vous until today! Everyone has seen the beautiful images of the cosmos, but few knows the great scientific results that Hubble offered to humanity. From Solar System planets to cosmology and black holes, Hubble’s impact on astronomy is grandiose! Over 15,000 papers were published based on Hubble data in peer-reviewed journals.

By turning challenging problems into great success, Hubble proved that resilience was the best way to take. One day, 10 or 20 years from now, Hubble will probably end its life into the Earth’s atmosphere. Until then, we can expect more beautiful discoveries and exciting pictures to dream about our Universe.

The Future

What is the future? Nobody knows, but new generations are coming! The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope (NGRST) are on the way for a new and exciting journey. 

The James Webb Space Telescope, also called JWST or Webb, is an infrared observatory orbiting around the L2 Lagrange point, that will complement and extend the discoveries of Hubble Space Telescope. The Webb will have longer wavelength coverage and much higher sensitivity. Its 6.5-meter primary deployable mirror is 2.7 times bigger than Hubble Space Telescope mirror! Full of magnificent discoveries are coming soon!

The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, also called the Roman Space Telescope, is the formerly Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). The Roman Space Telescope is based on an existing 2.4 m wide field-of-view primary mirror and will carry two scientific instruments. The first instrument is an imager with a field of view 100 times larger than the Hubble Space Telescope Field of view. The second instrument is a coronograph using novel starlight-suppression technology that will allow direct exoplanets imaging and spectrography. Very exciting!

But before these new telescopes start their operational phase, we wish a Happy birthday to Hubble!

Do you want to know what Hubble look at on your birth day? Follow this link and enter your birthday to find out!

https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/what-did-hubble-see-on-your-birthday

One thought on “Hubble Space Telescope, 30 Years and Still Sensational!

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