Monday, May 11, 2009

Launch of Hubble Space Telescope Repair Mission

On Monday, May 11th, NASA launched the fifth and final repair mission for the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Originally launched in April 1990, HST has provided some of the greatest advances in our understanding of the universe. The repair mission will replace failed gyroscopes, batteries and instruments, extending the life of the world’s most important telescope to 2014, and perhaps beyond.

The chart illustrates just how powerful the HST truly is. The chart shows how the amount of detail that astronomers could observe has grown over the last few centuries. Before 1609, astronomy was done solely with the human eye, which can resolve details as small as 1/50th of a degree. In 1609, Galileo pointed the first telescope at the heavens and was able to see about 600 times more than has ever been seen before. The world is celebrating the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s advance by declaring 2009 to be the International Year of Astronomy. As the chart shows, in the 400 years since Galileo, steady progress was made with ever more powerful telescopes. But all these pale in comparison to the dramatic advance achieved by the HST, which has provided almost 3 million times the information that can be seen by eye.

HST has opened a Golden Age of astronomy and opened our eyes to a more profound understanding of our universe and our place in it.

More on the telescope and the science later.

Now, we hope for the success and safe return of Space Shuttle crew Andrew Feustel, Michael Good, John Grunsfeld, Greg Johnson, Michael Massimino, Megan McArthur and Commander Scott Altman. These seven brave astronauts have trained for years and have accepted considerable risk to restore one of the greatest scientific instruments in human history.

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