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NASA Mission Update: HUBBLE
Launch Announcer: "2-1 and lift off of space shuttle Discovery with the Hubble Space Telescope, our window on the universe."
The Hubble Space Telescope was the first major optical telescope to be placed in space. Its launch in 1990 marked the most significant advance in astronomy since Galileo's telescope. Whirling around our planet at 17, 500 miles an hour, the observatory has taken about a half million images of 25,000 planetary bodies, made some 800,000 studies, and changed our view of the universe and our place within it.
Michael Moore: "It's looking at incredibly dim objects extremely far away, just little pinpricks of light, and you can actually tell that these tiny supernova are going off far, far, far, away, and to be able to extract from that this kind of information, to me, that's just fascinating to think that something we built could go and take that kind of measurement."
With an unobstructed panorama, the telescope has supplied to astronomers around the world data on the most distant stars and galaxies, as well as the planets in our solar system. Hubble weighs 24, 500 pounds, about the weight of two full-grown elephants, and is the size of a large school bus. The data it generates each day would fill the hard drive of a typical home computer in just two weeks.
Michael Moore: "This is one of the first really big space observatories or space missions where more people than just the folks that were building the stuff are really both interested and capable of using it They set up the space telescope science institute run by a private organization which is a collective, if you will, of universities has setup a process for soliciting proposals to use the instruments and selecting those proposals and then making those proposals get turned into useful data scientists can then process."
Hubble has benefited from four servicing missions in its 18-year history, each one enhancing its capabilities. A final mission is scheduled for later this year, when STS-125 crew members will install new instruments, replace degraded systems and bring inactive instruments back to life. These repairs and upgrades should keep the telescope functioning at least into 2014.
Michael Moore: "Hubble's upgrades with the new instruments, more than anything else, will give us tremendously increased capability for spectroscopy and imaging over what we previously had, and this is actually, is one of the great benefits of being able to put new instruments in an existing telescope."
In August 2008, Hubble made its 100,000th trip around earth, having racked up about 2.4 billion miles. Astronomers have used findings from this celestial surveyor to publish nearly 7,000 scientific papers, making the Hubble Space Telescope one of the most productive scientific instruments ever built.
Michael Moore: "Hubble has had a tremendous impact on the way people look at the universe. I was joking about the fact that when you saw Star Trek Voyager or the new Star Trek Enterprise movies, if you looked at their screens, in the old days, on the early Start Trek, they had a view foil with a light behind it that showed some stuff. Now what they have on there are beautiful LCD displays with moving versions of Hubble images on it. That’s what they show them flying through. People see the universe today the way Hubble sees it.
To learn more about the Hubble mission visit www.nasa.gov/hubble
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